New super. welcomed, fire chief named

-A A +A
By Jennifer Garcia

Changing of the guard seemed to be the theme for Tuesday night’s county council meeting, as the new superintendent at Bandelier National Monument gave a presentation and Douglas Tucker was confirmed fire chief.

The meeting began with Bandelier National Monument Superintendent Jason Lott introducing himself to council and giving a brief presentation.

During his presentation, he outlined his extensive experience, talked about current happenings at Bandelier and spoke about some of his goals as superintendent.

Prior to becoming the superintendent, Lott lived in Arizona, where he worked for eight years with the park service. He has also lived in Texas and Louisiana, holds a bachelor’s degree in ad design and a masters degrees in cultural resource management and history, both of which he obtained at Northwestern State University in Louisiana.

Lott has also served in the National Guard for 20 years, having served 10 years as a soldier and 10 years as an officer. He served two years as company commander, while in Iraq, as well.

Lott explained to councilors that he took the job at Bandelier because “I was looking for a great place for my children to grow up.”  Lott has an 11-year-old daughter and an 8-year-old son, whom he says are looking forward to the various activities that Los Alamos County has to offer.

In addition to his duties as superintendent, Lott will also serve on the Lodgers Tax Advisory Board. He said interested in working with the Chamber and the LTAB, as well as other members of the community and wants to reaffirm his commitment to the community.

With Council Chair Michael Wheeler and Councilor Nona Bowman absent, the remaining five councilors welcomed Lott.

“I’m excited to work with you,” Councilor Ralph Phelps said. “I’m very anxious to work to achieve mutual objectives.”

Councilor Sharon Stover told Lott that she thought it would be great if he got together with Assistant County Administrator Anthony Mortillaro, so that he could get involved with the White Rock Master Plan.

Councilor Robert Gibson was interested in Lott’s thoughts on the Valles Caldera, however. “Is there an opportunity for any ideas on where the Valles might go as far as administration?” Gibson queried.

“I’m to support the current management of the Valles Caldera Trust and help them be successful,” Lott said, without elaborating.

Council Vice Chair Mike Wismer joked with Lott, saying, “Welcome to our community. We’ll stretch you as soon as we can across as many committees as we can.”

On a more serious note, however, Wismer said, “We all recognize our parks are our nation’s cathedrals. I hope we have a collaborative relation across the spectrum.”

Lott closed the presentation, with nothing but praise for the staff at Bandelier. “I knew what I was doing when I applied for this position. This staff has a good reputation.”

Unlike Lott, Douglas Tucker did not give a presentation at the council meeting. Instead, County Administrator Max Baker began the process by saying, “It’s my honor and privilege to bring to you the approval of Douglas Tucker as fire chief.”

Baker briefly explained that when he and his assistant county administrators began thinking about who would replace Doug MacDonald, Tucker’s name immediately came to mind.

“It was an easy task to invite him to the interview,” Baker commented. “Doug is well prepared and willing and able.”

Councilor Robert Gibson asked Baker how Tucker’s $125,200 per year salary was determined.

“It was based on a few factors,” Baker explained, “it’s fairly high on the current range and (Tucker’s) been with the county for 15 years. It’s right in line with other department heads.”

That having been said, Gibson made the motion, seconded by Councilor Vincent Chiravalle, to approve the appointment of Tucker as fire chief. The motion passed 5-0.

Following the council vote, councilors took the opportunity to express their opinions about Tucker’s appointment. Gibson simply said the appointment is a “slam dunk.”

“We’d be hard pressed to find someone to serve the community like Douglas Tucker,” Chiravalle said. “The public will be well served.”

Councilor Ralph Phelps concurred with Chiravalle.

“I’m very pleased to see we could follow the succession planning process. Douglas Tucker will be a great asset to the department.”

Councilor Sharon Stover also welcomed Tucker and commended him for his efforts during the Cerro Grande fire.

Tucker briefly addressed council following their welcoming comments. He said the fire department is in the middle of a strategic plan, in which they are looking to the community and stakeholders and hoping to meet their expectations.

He also pointed out that a good relationship with the press is paramount in keeping the public informed and educating them on the fire department’s functions.

“As we move forward with serving the NNSA and the lab, we’re also here to serve the community,” Tucker said. “We must reach out to the community and let them know what we do. Our vision is to take a look at what you folks want. We cannot be satisfied with status quo.”