For a fire district that has had a fair share of vocal critics, it's shaping up to be a surprisingly quiet election.

Since November 2008, the Moraga-Orinda Fire District's board of directors has dealt with accusations that it helped a retiring fire chief spike his pension, and a proposal from some Orinda residents calling for the district's outright dissolution.

But despite the criticism, only one non-incumbent, Bob Jungbluth, is running for the board. And most Moraga and Orinda residents will not even see the district listed on their ballot.

Directors facing re-election said they were surprised more people did not run for a board seat, but were at a loss as to why.

"I could say it's reaffirmation that the public is in fact satisfied with the job that we're doing," board President Frank Sperling said. "But I could easily say that nobody wants to come close to doing this job, nobody wants to come near it, and I could give you facts to justify both sides. And I think there could be other reasons."

The district is arranged in five divisions. No one filed to run against Sperling or Director Dick Olsen, who was appointed earlier this year. Directors Fred Weil and Brook Mancinelli are not up for re-election until 2012.

That means there will be a fire board election only in southeastern Orinda, the district's Division 4, where Jungbluth is challenging incumbent Director John Wyro.


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Both Jungbluth, currently an Orinda planning commissioner, and Wyro said they were surprised more people did not run for election to the fire board.

"Like anything, talking about something and doing it are two different things, right?" Jungbluth said. "And I think that's probably human nature."

Serving on a board is time-consuming, he said, and people who have voiced concerns about the district may simply be too busy to make that kind of a commitment.

Wyro agreed, saying, "What it all comes down to is, is there someone who's willing to put themselves out there and do this?"

One of the district's most vocal critics, however, had a different opinion.

"I think people see (running for fire board) as futile," said Steve Cohn, a member of Fire and Infrastructure Renewal, or FAIR, the group calling for the district's dissolution.

Moraga, Orinda and fire district officials have held three "tri-agency" meetings to examine FAIR's claim that Orinda could get the same fire service from the county department for less money.

Cohn lives in Olsen's district, but said he has no desire to join a board that hates him. The issues raised by FAIR have not galvanized voters because the local media has not covered them enough, he theorized.

"The best you're going to get is a nice guy like Bob Jungbluth, who wants to make possible incremental change, and we will support him and wish him the best," Cohn said.

Voters are satisfied with allowing their elected officials to sort through FAIR's arguments, said Ellen Dale, a member of OrindaCARES, a group formed to counter FAIR's claims.

"I think the controversy, so called, has sort of died down into the background," she said. "I think they're letting the tri-agency (discussion) process take its course."