Firemen's union endorses Zeller and Schneider for City Council
It's a sign of the times. Election time, at least. Though it is by no means a part of every local election, those who pay attention to the signs in front yards all across town for various candidates for public office will have noted signs reading either "Firefighters For Zeller" or "Firefighters For Schneider."
These signs are part of the endorsement of Ward 3, Position 2 City Council candidate Joyce Zeller and Ward 1, Position 1 City Council candidate Mickey Schneder, who are running against Lany Ballance, and Karen Lindblad and Jack Gentry, respectively.
According to Capt. Jason Morris, president of Eureka Springs Local 4708 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, it is in no way unusual for unions to endorse political candidates.
"Our local group contributes to a political action fund through the state," he said. "If candidates wishes us to endorse them, they approach us and fill out an application. Then we as a group vote whether or not to endorse. Joyce Zeller and Mickey Schneider came to us to ask for our endorsement. We feel we should support those candidates who support us."
Morris pointed out there was no limit on who could ask for an endorsement. "As to whether we will or will not endorse a particular candidate, that's a different matter," he said. "That's why they fill out an application. But the opponents of the candidates we've endorsed never approached us."
Morris said the fire department had received phone calls from those involved in the race criticizing the decision to endorse particular candidates.
"Fire Chief [Rhys] Williams told them the same thing he tells everybody," Morris said. "The union is a totally separate entity from the fire department. He is not involved in any way with what the union does."
Lindblad disagreed with the concept of union endorsement. "I understand they are part of a union, but I feel uneasy with this outside interference in local government," she said. "They don't know the situation here. I feel uneasy with lots of money coming from outside endorsing our candidates. I know it happens all the time, but I was shocked when I saw the signs."
Candidate Schneider said while both she and Zeller had been endorsed by the firemen's union, this did not mean they were in cahoots.
"Joyce and I worked beautifully together in the past, but we don't always agree," she said. "However, we are two people with functioning brains and a great love of the city, so we thank you kindly for your vote."