NORTH POWDER — North Powder Mayor John Frieboes is new to the North Powder City Council but not to public service.
Frieboes, who was voted mayor by the city council on Monday, Nov. 1, was the chief of the North Powder Fire Department for eight years starting in the late 1980s through much of the 1990s. He took the department’s reins after serving as a volunteer firefighter for the department for two years.
The new mayor headed the fire department during the time North Powder became part of Union County’s 911 emergency dispatch system. Frieboes said the 911 system has greatly sped up and simplified the process of alerting first responders of emergencies.
He said that before there was a 911 system in North Powder, people had to dial a number that went to the North Powder Fire Department or a North Powder motel connected to the city’s emergency communication system.
“The motel was part of the system because it was always open,” Frieboes said.
The North Powder resident was also fire chief while the rural city’s first responder system was being created. Emergency medical personnel who volunteer as first responders provide patient care before ambulances from the La Grande, La Grande Rural or Baker City fire departments arrive. Frieboes said the first responder system is successfully helping patients receive critical emergency care more quickly than before.
Frieboes said that although he helped with the development of the first responder and the local 911 systems, his role was minor.
“Many other people did more than I did,” he said.
It is fitting that Frieboes is a former North Powder fire chief since as mayor he is now helping the city plan a move into the old fire department building he once worked in. The city is preparing to relocate its library and city hall at the former fire station at 340 E St.
The moves are needed, Frieboes said, because North Powder’s city hall and its library are in buildings that are many decades old and are deteriorating. He said the former fire station is in an excellent location for city hall and the library.
“It is solid and centrally located,” Frieboes said.
The building is available because the city recently built a larger fire station, which opened earlier this year.
Frieboes, as mayor, also said he wants to help North Powder move forward in its effort to upgrade its wastewater system. He said the city is in the process of obtaining grants to fund the upgrade, which would help it better meet Department of Environmental Quality standards.
The North Powder City Council elected Frieboes as mayor after he applied for the position. He did so after Mike Wisdom, who had served as mayor for two years and eight months, stepped down. Wisdom said he resigned because he and the council did not see eye to eye on some issues.
Frieboes, who will serve the final 14 months of Wisdom’s unexpired term, was the only person who applied for the mayoral opening and was hired after being interviewed by the city council.
Mike Morse, president of the North Powder City Council, believes Frieboes will do well as mayor.
“I feel good. He is well qualified and familiar with North Powder,” Morse said.
During the approximately six-week period between the time Wisdom resigned on Sept. 13 and Frieboes was named mayor, Morse handled North Powder’s mayoral responsibilities. As council president, he was required by the city’s charter to take on the role of interim mayor.
Freiboes served as maintenance director for the North Powder School District for 43 years before retiring in July. Lance Dixon, superintendent of the North Powder School District, said Frieboes has the potential to shine as mayor because of his honesty, integrity, work ethic and concern for North Powder.
“John has the best interest of the city at heart,” Dixon said.