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From a pool of 19 applicants, Troy Hughes made the short list and emerged victorious following an intense two-day interview process.
Tuesday night Hughes garnered unanimous approval from the county council. Councilor Ron Selvage was absent.
“I’m honored to make this presentation (recommending Troy Hughes for fire chief) for the acting administrator (out with a cold,)” said Police Chief Wayne Torpy. “Troy drove 700 miles to be here tonight and also to debrief with Fire Chief Tucker … I think as a fire chief he’s going to be absolutely perfect … he’s the consummate professional with strong leadership skills … I can tell you he had the endorsement of the entire senior management that sat on the interview panel including myself.”
Hughes, 47, is from Grand Island, Neb. He has 26 years of experience in the fire service, most recently as chief of the Grand Island Fire Department, a 69-member, four-station department that responds to about 4,000 emergency medical calls and 130 fire calls annually.
“I feel great – I have just been really welcomed by this community, even before tonight – and the affirmation by the council is exciting,” Hughes said. “The Los Alamos Fire Department has a great staff and I’m excited by their potential.”
Council Chair Sharon Stover said that she believes following former Chief Doug MacDonald and Chief Doug Tucker who retires Friday, Hughes will give the community a “trifecta” of outstanding fire chiefs.
Hughes will spend his initial days on the job in orientations and in meeting the rank and file as well as the department’s union leaders, he said.
“I’m pleased to see women firefighters and officers and individuals of diverse backgrounds and cultures in the department because that broadens the perspective and improves the decision making process,” he said.
Hughes said after reading the Cerro Grande Fire book that Tucker and MacDonald have become his local heroes. “It was very impressive how this community came to together,” he said.
Martin Luther King is Hughes primary hero outside the fire service.
“He came through some difficult times, he stayed mission focused, he didn’t become bitter to those who opposed him,” Hughes said.
In his position in Nebraska, Hughes said his support system included the Grande Island police chief. When he takes over running the Los Alamos Fire Department, Torpy, Tucker and MacDonald will be his support system.
“Chief Tucker already gave me all his new contact information,” he said.
Hughes took an early flight back to Nebraska this morning. He and his wife are in the process of selling their Grand Island home and intend to purchase a home in White Rock or Los Alamos, he said.
Both Hughes and his wife are avid outdoor enthusiasts who head out at 5:30 a.m. each day with their Chocolate Labrador Grace, 7, for a two to three mile run, he said, adding that he and his wife also love to hike and ride bicycles.
While Hughes is set to start his $126,000 a year job on Oct. 17, his wife is under contract as a teacher and literacy coach for Grand Island Public Schools and may have to work through next May.
“She is so excited about moving here because of the quality of the schools,” he said. “She can’t wait to get involved.”
Hughes holds a bachelor’s degree in public administration and a master’s degree in management from Doane College. He and his wife have two grown children.