NB Fire Chiefs Finalists Take Center Stage | Community alert

The two finalists for the next New Braunfels Fire Chief have spent the past few days speaking with city staff and elected officials and touring fire facilities. On Thursday, they visited the citizens they hope to serve.

Both Gregory Rodgers and Ruy Lozano are steeped in professional and administrative experience. Rodgers, 56, served the past three years as assistant chief at Schertz after 31 years with the College Station Fire Department. Lozano, 46, has spent his entire 25-year career with the Houston Fire Department and is now its deputy chief in charge of resource management.

City Manager Robert Camareno praised both men, saying their growing experiences made them great finalists for New Braunfels. He plans to spend more time with each finalist before recommending one to the New Braunfels City Council.

Patrick O’Connell resigned on September 20 after spending just over two years at the head of the 140-member NBFD. After appointing Mike Wehman as acting NBPD leader, the city’s nationwide search began in November.

Strategic Government Resources, a Keller-based executive search firm, helped the city outline what it wanted for its new leader, a position that would pay between $107,346 and $182,489 a year. The city posted the position on December 15 and closed applications on January 16.

“I think it’s important for people to understand the magnitude of this process,” Camareno said. “We started with 38 applicants for the position and then narrowed it down to eight semi-finalists who each had a number of things to accomplish.

“First, there was a recorded interview in which they answered a number of questions that we provided to them, and then answered written questions. We took this information to review these candidates, which we narrowed down to four. »

Camareno said another round of interviews produced the two finalists, who attended a reception with the fire department in the boardroom on Wednesday, then returned Thursday for interviews with three panels, each consisting of members of the fire department and city leaders.

Additionally, finalists met with members of council, toured brand new emergency facilities – the new police station being built across from the newly remodeled and soon to open Comal County Sheriff’s Office, and the new Fire Station No. 2 on Water Lane, which will open after Fire Station No. 3 on Hanz Drive opens later this spring.

“They also looked at the temporary facilities, as well as the Westside Community Center and other areas of the city,” Camareno said.

Both men hail from counties larger and smaller than New Braunfels.

“Chief Lozano comes from Houston, with 3,400 firefighters; Chief Rodgers spent most of his years with the College Station department, which is very similar in size to our fire department,”

Camareno said, adding that both departments are in high growth areas that require planning, budgeting, preparation and direction.

“The only thing we want is a leader who will be with us for a long time, someone who can give us some consistency and plan for the growth of not only our community, but also the Emergency Services District ( Comal County) No. 7.

ESDs provide fire and emergency medical services throughout the county. ESD #7, in the Creekside/Resolute Hospital area, will also have a new firefighter training academy. New businesses are planned for the area, such as Continental, and new developments planned, such as Veramendi and Mayfair.

“The chief will need the vision to plan for this growth and communicate it to firefighters,” Camareno said. “He will also have to be a great fit for the organization and the community.”

Both candidates were impressed with the city’s new and planned facilities, each saying they were comfortable matching the economy to realities while providing enough personnel, vehicles and facilities to improve work times. response.

Rodgers, 56, grew up in San Antonio and graduated from Churchill High School. He began his nearly 40-year career with the Hollywood Park Fire Department and spent the next 31 years with the College Station Fire Department. Three years ago, when he wanted to move back to the San Antonio area to be near his parents, he interviewed for the job at Schertz.

“Being from here and being at Schertz for the past three years, I know a lot of people here and around the region,” Rodgers said. “I worked with these people – we were part of the Wurstfest (fire) response – and all the way to Austin.

“I know it’s their community – it’s something they take very personally. It’s (similar) to what I learned while I was at College Station, and the people there passed it on – is that this is our community and we will protect it with the services that we need.

Rodgers holds a bachelor’s degree in emergency management administration and a master’s degree in business administration, is a graduate of the Texas Fire Chief’s Academy and is a peer assessor with the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

Lozano, 46, has worked for HFD since he was 21. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications, a master’s degree in business administration, is a U.S. Army Reserve veteran, a fire master, and a fire instructor with the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. , and is also a center for peer assessment of excellence in public safety.

“This community is like one big family — which is pretty impressive,” said Lozano, one of Houston’s 10 deputy chiefs and the one who oversees resource management.

“It’s like the business side of the fire department,” he said. “I manage the investment budget, in charge of the acquisition and maintenance of the fleet, in charge of tools, equipment and the warehouse – and I am also the spokesperson for the press.”

Lozano said his job is logistics-focused — and says his strength is getting services and equipment to the right places in good times and bad – and he’s seen the latter at its worst.

“Hurricane Harvey,” he said. “I’ve done the logistics for this storm, and I’ve always been the only person looking for resources for critical events or even when gigs come to town. ‘These are the tools we need today’ today and in the future.

The city’s job description states that the chief performs departmental administrative activities that include budget development and oversight, policy analysis, project management, and strategic planning. It also oversees recruitment, testing, hiring, performance reviews, and outlines employee development within the guidelines of Texas civil service laws.

Rodgers or Lozano will be the first from outside the NBFD to take the chief job since Kenneth Jacks won the top job in 2014. Camareno said his decision may take a bit longer than Keith Lane’s. , who was among the four finalists for police chief. one year ago.

Lane, who had already spent several months as the NBPD’s acting leader before the final stages of interviews, was named leader on April 27, just two days after the public reception. Lane, Mayor Rusty Brockman and others said they don’t envy Camareno, who has a tough decision to make.

“Each of the panels presented me with feedback that will be so important and valuable to me in making this decision,” Camareno said. “I may have to meet with them again for individual follow-up.

“I hope to make a decision as soon as possible,” he added. “But understand that I’m going to take time to do this – because it’s not just for the firefighters but also for the community.”