Brownwood City Council members learned Tuesday the Firemen’s Relief and Retirement Fund — which is partially funded by Brownwood tax dollars — is the healthiest the fund has been in its 80-plus-year history. Council members then voted to seat a retired fire captain on the fund’s board.
The fund is valued at slightly more than $4.3 million, Finance Director Walter Middleton, who is also a member of the fund’s board, told council members.
In 2002, the fund’s value fell to $1.8 million after the tech bubble crash, and after the investment banking crash in 2008, the fund was valued at $1.77 million, Middleton told the council. Middleton said the fund is at its current value because of the recommendations of investment advisor Tim Sharpe, who works for Morgan Stanley.
“It’s the highest value that we’ve had in the Brownwood Firemen’s Fund’s history,” Middleton said. “We’re all very happy about that and keeping our fingers crossed that the stock market continues to perform well.”
In 2017, the Brownwood taxpayers paid $369,552 into the fund and firefighters contributed $147,821 for a total of $517,373, Middleton said.
Council members voted 3-2 to seat retired fire Capt. Robert Myers as a citizen board member — the first time a retired firefighter has been elected to the citizen board seat. The council’s vote ratified an earlier election by the fund’s board members, when Myers was elected to replace outgoing citizen board member Mark Bessent.
Middleton explained the makeup of the board: two representatives of the city, including Middleton; three active firefighters; and two citizen board members.
“Seating a retiree is really a pretty dynamic change in the composition of the board, regardless of who that person was,” Middleton said.
There was a concern on the board about over-weighting the board with firefighter representatives, since three active firefighters are already on the board, Middleton said. That concern is offset by the desire to have a board member who represents retirees’ concerns, he said.
A retiree seated as a citizen board member “brings a different set of views and different set of responsibilities to the fund,” Middleton said.
Myers retired from the fire department in 2014 and was a member of the board as an active firefighter for 19 of those years, Middleton told council members. Myers currently works as a paramedic for Lifeguard Ambulance.
Council members Ed McMillian and Larry Mathis voted against seating Myers. McMillian said he has nothing against Myers but believed the citizen board seat should remain neutral. After council members voted, Mathis said he fully supports the board and stressed the importance of “keeping an eye” on the fund.
Myers addressed the council, saying he had one concern when he previously served on the board: “to ensure the security and retirement of firefighters as we moved forward. My concerns now are even more so — to secure those benefits for current retirees and for those in the future.
“I’m not a fireman when I’m voting on that board. I’m a person who’s concerned with that fund and its condition.”