Englewood fire board chairman McHenry dies

ENGLEWOOD -- Robert McHenry, the outspoken Englewood Area Fire Control District chairman who for years fought passionately to bolster the fire department's manpower and resources, died Monday at Venice Regional Medical Center.

McHenry was elected to the board in 1994 and was in his third four-year term.

Prior to retiring in 1991, McHenry had spent 30 years in the fire service both as a firefighter and an administrator in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. While running for office in 1994, he said he believed he could best serve his community as a member of the fire board, which oversees the Englewood fire department.

"Once a fireman, always a fireman," McHenry said.

When elected, McHenry said he wanted to improve efficiency and morale in the department and said change was needed on the board.

According to his fellow board members, he achieved his aims.

"He was passionate about Englewood Fire," said board member Dee Hawkins. "He was driven by being on the board."

Though known for his booming voice and sometimes cantankerous demeanor, McHenry was a strong leader who helped focus the board toward common goals.

"He could be feisty, but he was a good guy," Hawkins said. "He will be deeply missed."

McHenry led the board's effort last year to pass a referendum that increased annual fire taxes to pay for more manpower. Though pressured by business leaders and some residents who thought the increase was too much, McHenry remained steadfast in his belief that fire service in Englewood would suffer without it.

Following the passage of the fire referendum in November, the department this year hired six new firefighters and will hire nine more next year.

McHenry is survived by his wife, Jane, a son, a daughter and grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were not available Monday.

You can e-mail Garry Overbey at overbey@sun-herald.com.