ORINDA -- Moraga resident Kathleen Conroy Famulener has been tapped to become the Moraga-Orinda Fire District's first female board member, having been appointed this week.

Citing the similarities of her public service on the De La Salle High School board of trustees with the role of an MOFD director, board president John Wyro, Vice President Alex Evans and director Fred Weil voted Monday to appoint Famulener director of Division 1, which oversees Moraga. She is scheduled to be sworn in Aug. 7.

The appointment comes during a time of transition for the district following the departure of former Division 1 director Frank Sperling in May, and the resignation of former fire Chief Randy Bradley earlier this month. The district is also looking for a new administrative services director following the resignation of their current director Sue Casey, and is trying to negotiate a joint partnership with the neighboring Contra Costa County Fire Protection District to build a fire station in Lafayette. Directors have also been divided over how to fill the board vacancy, but agreed they would choose a director or call for an election to avoid an appointment by county supervisors.

On Monday, Weil reiterated his support for a public election. He also indicated the board could benefit from a change, and nominated Famulener over a former paramedic with ties to MOFD and a Moraga businessman.

"For the history of this district, this has been a good-old-boys board in age and in gender, and we've never had the perspective of a woman on the board," Weil said. "I think it would do us good to have a different perspective than the same perspectives we have."

Director Steve Anderson opposed the appointment, arguing he thought another applicant had more financial experience.

Famulener, 62, told directors her desire to become a board member stems from a lifetime of public service, and said there were issues that had caught her attention, such as emergency response times and suggestions of potential cutbacks and modifications to paramedic staffing.

In an interview Wednesday, Famulener stressed the importance of the district working with a full five-member board, and praised the timing of a recent FEMA grant which will allow directors to "concentrate on a long-term strategic plan." The district was recently awarded a $1.15 million federal hiring grant to increase trained "front line" firefighting staff, among other goals.

The assistant Alameda County Deputy District Attorney also lauded the district's emergency services. "We need to continue to recruit, train and maintain the great staff we have, the great paramedics and firefighters," she said.

Hiring the new chief financial officer is another priority, and one that will be a challenge, Famulener said.

"I think we need to ensure the longtime financial stability of the district and make sure we keep up the fire and emergency services we have," she said. "I think those are the two issues that are most important to the citizens of the district."

Famulener joins Weil as the second attorney on the board. She would need to run for election in November 2014 to retain her seat.

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