Seven months after arriving in Belgrade, Central Valley Fire District’s interim Chief Greg Tryon was promoted to permanent status this week.

CVFD’s board voted unanimously during its Tuesday meeting to offer Tryon the position after a nationwide search for a chief to succeed Ron Lindroth, who resigned his position in March after being placed on administrative leave in November 2021.

Tryon, who was visibly emotional after the board’s vote, said Wednesday he applied for the job for several reasons but primarily because of the people he has met in the department and Gallatin Valley over the past seven months.

“This was a group of people looking for somebody to believe in them,” he said. “This is a group of people working hard for each other, working hard for the community.”

Tryon said CVFD serves a community that “looks like my (Issaquah, Wash.) fire district of 30 years ago that I started in – same square miles, same population.”

Like the western Gallatin Valley today, the greater Issaquah area has experienced tremendous growth over the past few decades.

“I know where this department is going to be in 30 years,” Tryon said. “I’ve been in a department that went from 200 square miles and three stations, like Central Valley, to one that’s now over 15 fire stations.”

Tryon said his 30 years in fire service began for him as a volunteer, and since then, “I’ve held every position in an organization,” including as active chief for CVFD these past several months.

He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington and a master’s certificate in community adaptive leadership – and that is the best way to describe his management style, he said.

When problems arise, the solution is “not just instituting a policy,” he said. “How do you deal with problems when there’s a conflict of values involved? If your value is more important than my value, the fight’s on.

“I am passionate about communities being involved in decisions,” he continued. “If a community or somebody is involved in part of a problem and not involved in a solution, I already know it’s not going to work.”

Negotiating interpersonal dynamics is an interest Tryon intended to pursue even before he was tapped to step in as interim chief for CVFD last fall.

“A number of months ago, I had just retired and was getting ready to go back to school for counseling and social work,” he said.

That’s when he received a call from Greg Prothman, the headhunter who had previously recruited Lindroth and two Belgrade city managers, asking if Tryon would be interested in filling in as a temporary fire chief in Belgrade, due to staff illness. (Prothman is also from the Issaquah area, but Tryon said Prothman knew about him because he had previously applied for a position with the fire department in Kalispell, a search Prothman was handling.)

Though Tryon submitted his resume, he said he didn’t hear anything more from Central Valley until later in October, when Lindroth called him to ask if he would be interested in filling a temporary deputy fire chief position at CVFD.

Then, on Nov. 9, the CVFD board placed Lindroth on administrative leave, pending an investigation, and asked Tryon to step in as interim fire chief.

Lindroth resigned in early March. CVFD Board President Ty Elliot said then than the informal investigation into Lindroth’s performance “did not substantiate any violations.”

As the board began a search for Lindroth’s replacement, Tryon remained in command of the department.

After Lindroth’s suspension but before his resignation, Local 4939 President Dustin Pitman, a CVFD firefighter, said Lindroth “has failed our organization and community.” In general terms, he told the Belgrade News that union members were concerned with Lindroth’s leadership.

The union apparently does not feel the same way about Tryon’s leadership to date. Several months ago, Local 4939 submitted a written endorsement of Tryon as a candidate for the permanent chief position, and Pitman reiterated that support Tuesday evening.

On April 18, the Belgrade City Council also signed a letter of endorsement for Tryon to remain at the helm of the department. And it was stated during Tuesday’s meeting that Tryon’s candidacy was similarly supported by the Bozeman fire department.

Elliot said Prothman was asked to conduct the search for Lindroth’s successor, and that 17 people applied for the $123,000 per year job. Elliot said a committee comprising CVFD board members and Belgrade City Manager Neil Cardwell helped select the five finalists, who were interviewed over the past week and a half.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, Elliot said he saw no reason to extend the search process and “waste taxpayer money” on a more extensive search.

When asked for their opinions prior to the vote, all the trustees said they were firmly in favor of hiring Tryon.

Trustees Justin Varley and Ron Murray said they were behind the decision “100 percent.” Trustee Mark MacLeod was more succinct.

“Greg’s our guy,” he said.

Tryon said he expects to be at CVFD for “a short period of time – four, five or six years.”

“Fire chiefs, by nature, have an expiration date,” he said Wednesday. “I’m looking at a number of people in this organization and I see where they should be in a few years.

“My goal is to build that potential up and then step aside so they can take this department even farther,” he said.