At our Palominas Tea Party potluck meeting in January of 2014, interim Palominas Fire Chief Steve Abel had some good things to say. When he first accepted the job as interim Chief, he thought it would be for a period of three months–but one more month will complete one full year on the job in our rural desert community in southern Cochise County, Arizona. He likes it here, as does his wife–though with two dogs and a camper the only residence for the four of them, he was quick to note that Mrs. Abel does have veto power if it comes down to the question of taking up permanent residence in our area or not.
As it happens, I’d been out of the loop for quite some time. When I stopped paying attention to politics after the 2012 election cycle, the Palominas Fire District was still in political flux. But now…it’s not. All five current members of the Palominas Fire Board work well together, not always agreeing but always having the good of the community in mind.
The Chief spoke on a number of topics, including (for example) meeting budget challenges during these retrenching economic times without sacrificing service to the community.
Steve is clearly a personable individual and a highly qualified Fire Chief–so qualified, it seems, that the idea of keeping him here as Fire Chief (not just interim Fire Chief) appears to be a good idea, if doable.
But I decided to learn more about him before writing this post. Where had he been in earlier years? What had he done? Everyone on the Fire Board knew the answers to those questions, but why ask them? They’re busy folks, and besides, a bit of independent research would do me good.
The first thing uncovered on the Internet is the fact that Steve Abel has other irons in the fire. In fact, he has his own business, Steve Abel & Associates, LLC, with an online presence at steveabel.org. On the home page, there’s a note:
Note: I’m currently in Arizona filling an Interim Fire Chief position. I expect to be able to accept additional contracts in early 2014. Please call or e-mail if I can provide information on any projects that you are planning.
Does that mean he’ll be leaving us soon? Maybe, maybe not. At any rate, the site’s About Us page opens with the following paragraph:
After a successful 32 year career in the fire service, Steve retired to spend time doing the portions of the job that he truly loves: Strategic planning, facilitating group processes, helping fire service leaders hone their skills and prepare for advancement, and recruiting and testing for our next generation of leaders.
Below that quote, there’s a fount of information which I’ll not repeat here, as you can always hit the link and read it straight from the horse’s mouth. However, the list of the fire related positions he’s held is by itself enough to underscore the truth that the man is not merely qualified to run the Palominas Fire Department–he’s massively overqualified.
The Palominas Fire Department gets an average of 500 (or so) calls per year. Steve Abel has been Fire Chief for cities in Washington and Oregon with as many as 30,000 calls per year.
Looks like we’d better have a backup plan…and, of course, we do. The Palominas Fire Board has never ceased looking for the right person to fill the permanent slot for Fire Chief. If Steve winds up being “it” for some years yet, then hooray for us. But if not…how’s the personnel search going, folks?
I decided to find out. Spoke with one of my contacts who, though not a member of the Fire Board, knows the ins and outs of Cochise County politics from stem to stern. He told me,
“For the longest time, no one would apply for Fire Chief in Palominas. They’d see the ad, make a few calls, discover it was a political sewer down there, and say no way. But now it’s all right, running smoothly, they’re hearing about it, and the applications are trickling in. And that’s at least eighty percent due to one man, the current Chief (Steve Abel).”
Summary: Who will become the Palominas Fire Chief is still an open question, but we residents in the Palominas Fire District can be sure of two things. (1) He or she is going to be a good one. (2) No matter who the successful candidate turns out to be, the community owes a debt of thanks to the good work done this past year by Interim Fire Chief Steve Abel. Thanks, Steve, for your service.