Central Whidbey fire commissioners recognized for length of service

Cheryl Engle remembers how puzzled she felt when Paul Messner asked her about running for Central Whidbey Fire &Rescue commissioner.

She had worked as an elementary school teacher and a bookkeeper for the family farm business, but a fire commissioner?

“I said, ‘I don’t know anything about fighting fires,” Engle said. “He said, ‘We don’t want you to know anything about fighting fires. We want you to be able to balance a budget.”

More than a quarter century since that conversation, Engle and Messner are still holding down commissioner seats and overseeing fire services in their Central Whidbey district.

This month at their commissioners meeting, both were presented with Washington Fire Commissioners Association Length of Service awards — Messner for 30 years and Engle for 25.

Messner, who started out at Central Whidbey as a volunteer firefighter in 1973, actually has spent 31 years as a commissioner while Engle has been at it for 26 years.

“A lot of changes,” Messner said. “I think our first budget was like $63,000. We’ve come a long ways. We started out with six stations. We’ve moved down to where we have three, combining a lot of little stations. I think we’ve been able to get better coverage for everybody by doing that.

“It’s really been a lot of fun and an honor to serve the people and help the community.”

Fellow commissioner Steve Hutchinson presented Messner and Engle with service pins, along with chocolates and flowers.

“I started out as a volunteer when the Admiral’s Cove station was brand new,” Messner said. “We had a commissioner resign. I got appointed. I was supposed to be appointed for a short period of time until they elected someone else. Then it ended up being 30 years.”