Harold Schapelhouman, fire chief of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District since January 2007, has a new contract with the district to continue in his current position until June 2018.
The five-member governing board, on a vote of 3-1 on March 15 with member Peter Carpenter absent, approved a contract that raises Chief Schapelhouman's annual salary by 11.5 percent, to $242,848 from $217,680. It's his first salary increase since 2012, he said in an interview.
Mr. Bernstein, a reliable critic of district spending priorities, was the dissenting vote. "He's a very consistent conservative guy" who went out of his way to make assurances that his dissent was nothing personal, Chief Schapelhouman said.
The pay increase includes a $2,000 monthly housing stipend if the chief lives in the district, which Chief Schapelhouman said he doesn't plan to do.
Chief Schapelhouman, 55, lives with his wife and daughter about 21 miles from district headquarters, in the Willow Glen neighborhood of San Jose. "I built my house and I'm very happy with all my neighbors and friends," he said. "We like where we live."
Mr. Bernstein had predicted an increase in district's officer pay in concert with the new contract with firefighters, approved by the board in August 2015, that is raising their pay 18 percent over four years.
"It's important to take care of everyone else first," the chief said. "You don't want to be seen as the greedy leader." He was also earning less than his deputy, a disparity the board wanted to rectify, he said.
Chief Schapelhouman has been in a wheelchair, unable to walk and with limited use of one hand, since a catastrophic accident in 2013 when he fell off a ladder. His contract is for just two years. "Let's be honest," he said. "I don't look the part anymore. ... There's a perception of what I should be able to do as a fire chief."
A two-year contract leaves the door open to change, he said. "I don't want (my injury) to be a reason or an excuse. That really should not be the test. ... We're doing really, really well on a lot of different fronts. I can't take all the credit. I try to surround myself with really great people who do great things."