Max Ming, who was praised as a unifying leader when he was named co-chief of the Forestville and Russian River fire protection districts nearly seven years ago, resigned last week from both positions.
Ming was asked to resign by the Forestville Fire District’s board of directors but his departure was unopposed by the River Fire Protection District Board, said river district board member Mark Emmett.
“It was their (Forestville’s) decision,” said Emmett.
Ming, who could not be reached for comment this week, was technically an employee of the Forestville district, with the Russian River district paying half Ming’s full-time salary in exchange for Ming’s services as the river district’s half-time chief.
Ming technically resigned Dec. 6 from the Forestville district, making his employment with the river district terminated as well, said directors.
Ming sent a brief letter of resignation to the Russian River Fire District, said district board president Nance Jones.
“We enjoyed working with Max. We wish him well,” said Jones who added the district will continue without a permanent chief for the time being.
“We’re investigating where we go from here,” said Jones. “We liked the idea of a shared chief. It was cost effective.”
Ming’s total annual compensation serving as chief of both districts was approximately $165,000, including salary and benefits. Prior to being named chief of the two districts, Ming served nearly 30 years as a firefighter in Forestville, where he started as a volunteer in 1984 and was hired a year later as a paid firefighter.
Officials said they did not expect an outcry similar to that of four years ago when Guerneville Fire Protection District directors attempted to remove Ming as the Russian River chief, prompting protest letters from firefighters in both districts and ultimately a successful recall election that ousted two river board directors, Kevin O’Shea and Linda Payne. Following that turmoil, Ming was reinstated as the river district chief. Since then he had continued serving as shared chief of both districts without controversy.
His resignation came after several closed session meetings with the Forestville district directors.
“I think there were a lot of things,” that led to Ming’s departure, said Monte Rio Fire Protection District Chief Steve Baxman, who also served as operations chief with the Russian River District.
As for any future joint chief arrangement supervising two districts, “I think that’s over,” said Baxman.
The Forestville Fire Protection District’s Assistant Chief, Dave Franceschi, will serve as Forestville’s interim chief.
Although Forestville firefighters supported Ming and the shared chief arrangement in 2013, Russian River directors do not foresee a repeat of the 2013 protest.
“Do you see anyone putting [protest] signs out?” said Baxman.