6 seek 5 trustee seats on Stewardson fire board

From left are Judy Tabbert, Robert Prosser and Lisa Blythe.

STEWARDSON — Six candidates are running for five trustee seats on the Stewardson Fire and Ambulance Protection District Board in the first trustee election since a referendum that changed the way they are selected for the board passed in November.

The November referendum passed by a vote of 584 to 224, giving the voters the power to decide who serves as trustee. Before that, trustees were appointed by the Shelby County Board.

The six candidates in Tuesday’s election are Robert Prosser, Judy Tabbert, Lisa Blythe, Matthew Shumard, Larry Syfert and Ervin A. Mueller II.

Once the board is elected, the new trustees will decide who will serve as board officers.

Robert Prosser

Prosser, 69, has a son, Matthew, a daughter, Lindsey LeFever, and three grandchildren: Noah, Cruz and Cora. He is retired and running for office for the first time.

He is a member of the Mutual Air Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 54 Honor Guard and a member of Wilbur Braughton American Legion Post 611.

Prosser said he is glad trustees are now elected rather than how they were chosen in the past.

“I believe that when dealing with taxpayer money you should have elected trustees for taxpayer accountability,” Prosser said.

He said serving on the fire department gives him the knowledge and experience that should be an asset to the board.

“I was on the fire department for 39 1/2 years. The last 12 years as chief until retiring,” Prosser said. “My knowledge of the fire department and working with the district board for 12 years sets me apart from my opponents.”

Prosser said an issue he is concerned about is building up personnel for both the fire protection district and EMS along with being responsible to the taxpayers. He has a couple of goals he wants to achieve while in office.

One of those goals is to get more input from taxpayers.

“I want to get out in the community trying to get more people to become firefighters and EMTs and providing the best service we can to our taxpayers,” Prosser said.

Judy Tabbert

Tabbert is a LPN/pharmacy tech at Crossroads Cancer Center.

Tabbert said board trustees should be accountable for their actions.

“I feel the taxpayers of this district should receive proper usage of the funds allocated to this district. These funds are for the safety of the citizens living here,” Tabbert said.

She said her medial background and experience qualifies her to be a good trustee candidate.

“I was an EMT for this district for over 30 years. My husband and I raised our family in this district. I know that we need a good fire and ambulance service because of our location. Time is of great importance in certain situations,” Tabbert said.

Tabbert said her knowledge of how the fire and ambulance district operates sets her apart from her opponents.

“I feel I would have some understanding of what might be more important issues that need to be addressed,” Tabbert said.

Tabbert wants to see ambulance calls handled locally instead of waiting for an outside service for help and feels trustees should be held accountable for use of the funds given to the district.

Among the list of things Tabbert would like to accomplish while in office is making sure equipment used by firefighters and EMTs is regularly updated.

“I hope to see that we have adequate people to help answer ambulance service calls. I hope to see that funds are used to the betterment of both the fire and ambulance service,” Tabbert said. “I would like to see that the people helping with the fire and ambulance services receive the proper continuing education needed to maintain their licenses.”

Lisa Blythe

Blythe is 54 and works as a universal banker. She lives with her husband, Ron, and has two sons, Seth and Carl.

She is a graduate of Effingham High School and doesn’t hold any public offices. Blythe said when her sons were in school she was president of the band boosters.

Blythe said there are several reasons why she ran for trustee.

“I am motivated to once again have a unified fire and ambulance service. One that is civic minded, looking out for their fellow Stewardson fire district community members. I want to see both services work together with one mutual goal: the health, safety and welfare of everyone within the Stewardson Fire Protection District,” Blythe said.

She said being a Stewardson resident for over 30 years with 25 of those years as the wife of a firefighter/EMT qualifies her to be a board trustee. Blythe said for eight years she has co-chaired the food stand for the Fourth of July Stewardson Volunteer Fireman’s Picnic to help raise funds for equipment.

“I know the community-minded, unified department we used to have and I would like that to return to Stewardson Fire and Ambulance Protection District,” Blythe said.

Blythe said she brings to the trustee board her conservative view.

“I enter this race with an open mind, conservative view and no personal agenda. I want the Stewardson Fire and Ambulance Protection District community to give the trustees ideas and help make the Stewardson Fire and Ambulance Protection District great again,” Blythe said.

She said a couple of the most important issues are increasing membership of the volunteer organization and hold transparent, open board meetings.

“I would like to see membership drives for young and old alike. We need to increase membership to keep our ambulance services a viable asset for the Stewardson Fire and Ambulance Protection District,” Blythe said.

Blythe said if she were elected trustee she would like to create a program more focused on the youth in the community.

“Get youngsters involved and teach them the importance of working together as a team. I would like to create activities geared to pique a child’s interest in volunteering for the greater good of their community. I would like to see our fire board be a bridge to guide the ambulance and fire personnel work as a team.”

She would also like to make sure taxpayer money is used in the best possible way that will benefit all residents living in the district.

“The past is behind us. We need to look forward, work together and be unified,” Blythe said.

Matthew Shumard

Shumard is 45 and currently parts manager at JX Truck Services of Effingham. He is running for office for the first time.

He said the reason he is running for office is to find out how the fire district’s money is being used.

“I would like to know why our ambulance service is declining,” Shumard said.

Shumard said he didn’t know of anything specific that sets him apart from his opponents.

“I have lived in this fire district my whole life and I am someone who is willing to give this district my time and energy,” Shumard said.

Shumard said if elected he would make sure the district’s money is being used wisely, apply for any available grants, be sure members of the fire and ambulance services are getting the training they need and properly equip the fire trucks and ambulances.

Larry Syfert and Ervin A. Mueller II did not respond to an Effingham Daily News questionnaire.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

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Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.