Mr. Carpenter previously served on the fire board from 2001 to 2009. His return to the fire district even as a temporary director came as a surprise to those who remember him saying he was finished with public service.
He explained that his filling the position now would prevent anyone from gaining an advantage over other candidates when the district holds an election for the seat in November 2011. He said he doesn't plan to run.
Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman commented: "From our standpoint as staff, and as the fire chief, there's no mystery as to what Director Carpenter's expectations are or what he feels strongly about. I know where we stand and what he expects from us."
Four applicants vied for the position during a round-robin interview on Thursday, Dec. 9.
Robert Solano, Virginia Chang Kiraly, Steven Kennedy and Mr. Carpenter took turns answering nine questions posed by the board, according to Chief Schapelhouman.
Like Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Kennedy previously served on the board, but his service was plagued by reports of unethical behavior. He was censured three times and stripped of his director's badge.
Chief Schapelhouman complimented everyone who applied. "It's nice to have four people who want to be board members," he said. "Sometimes there's no one."
The new board member faces the challenge of getting the local firefighters union back to the negotiating table.
Last week the Menlo Park Firefighters Association rejected the fire protection district's "last, best, and final" offer of contributing $1,500 per month to each employee's health plan.
Rick Bolanos, a labor attorney representing the district, said the board can now either choose to impose the offer or decide to do nothing until the union becomes willing to negotiate again. The firefighters have been working without a contract for almost three years.