In times of trouble, the Five Cities Fire Authority has decided to turn to a familiar face.
Steve Lieberman, a former volunteer firefighter, former Grover Beach mayor and councilman, and major participant in the creation of the FCFA, has been appointed as the new fire chief/executive officer for the authority, the FCFA Fire Board announced on Nov. 4.
Lieberman—who currently serves as the director of the San Luis Obispo County Emergency Medical Services Agency—will take over at the FCFA on Dec. 8.
“It’s not like I’m dissatisfied with my current position, but a few people approached me and said I’d be a good fit at the FCFA, and eventually I got the job,” Lieberman told New Times. “I’m resetting myself to get ready for the next challenge.”
The FCFA, which was created in 2010, serves the communities of Arroyo Grande, Oceano, and Grover Beach. The most pressing issue for the authority these days is finding a way forward after the failure of a proposed $1 million-per-year benefit assessment district earlier this year.
The assessment district—which was rejected by roughly 60 percent of FCFA service area property owners in April 2014—targeted four areas of need: apparatus replacement, equipment replacement, dispatch services, and personnel.
As a result of the rejection, those areas are now deficient in funding. In addition, three firefighters and three fire engineers whose positions were funded under a now-expired federal grant were laid off in August.
“I know morale is bad at the FCFA. Of course it is—they lost six people,” Lieberman said. “That said, the organization needs to move forward and work within its means.”
Lieberman said he has several ideas about how to best manage the FCFA but added he’s still in the process of refining and finalizing his plans, so they’re “not quite ready for primetime.”
“The FCFA is great, but it’s a work in progress,” Lieberman said. “I’m proud of what’s been done thus far, but the authority is relatively young—it’s only been around since 2010—and I think people forget that.”