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An Atomic City Trolley rolled up to the door of the unsuspecting county administrator’s downtown office at noon Wednesday, where he was hosting a final meeting with senior staff.
Staff who attended the meeting and hundreds more throughout Los Alamos and White Rock were in on the secret kept from County Administrator Max Baker for several weeks.
They escorted their boss to a spot near the front of the trolley before quickly filling the remaining seats. The next two hours were spent touring many of the county projects currently underway and those that have been completed during Bakerís tenure.
“It’s amazing what’s been done under your watch. The community has made a 180 degree turnaround since youíve been here Max,” Council Chair Michael Wheeler told Baker during the trolley ride. “I can’t say enough about how much the council appreciates your efforts — I just want to say thanks from this council, the previous council and the council before that.”
Police Chief Wayne Torpy, Fire Chief Doug Tucker, Assistant County Administrator Diana Stepan and effective today, new County Administrator Tony Mortillaro joined other department heads, members of the media and county councilors on the tour.
County Councilor Vincent Chiravalle was on travel Wednesday but made the following comments regarding Baker.
“Max is a fine public servant and a model administrator who has guided our county through a continuing period of revitalization. His thoughtful nature, patience and unwavering dedication to his work have made such a positive impact on our county government,” Chiravalle said. “For me it has been a pleasure to work with Max during my time on the council. I don’t want to see him go, but after dealing with the rigors and demands of one of the toughest jobs in town for many years now, I appreciate his desire to enter a new phase of life. I wish Max the very best in retirement and in all his future endeavors. He has done an outstanding job and his presence will be missed.”
Crowds of employees holding goodbye and good luck signs and banners met Baker at each stop on the tour. He received plaques and other retirement mementos as well as countless words of praise and appreciation.
The idea for the special farewell trolley tour came from Sandra Salazar. Salazar has worked for the county for 23 years, many of which were for Baker, before transferring to the police department six months ago.
Baker was clearly touched by all the attention. At the final stop where employees from the modular offices near the new Judicial Complex gathered to bid him farewell, Baker made a short speech.
“It’s been my honor to work with you — and that’s what we did — we worked together,” he said.
County employee Martha Katko reminded Baker of the three things he always mentions to new employees during their orientation:
You can pick your attitude;
Don’t take your problems home with you; and
Feel free to ask questions.
A farewell open house was held from 4-6 p.m. in council chambers Wednesday that gave community members an opportunity to express their appreciation and to say goodbye.
Baker initially came to Los Alamos County in January 1992. He holds a master’s degree in public administration and has served in local government for more than 30 years. He indicated that he has no plans to move away from the area.