There were 15 employees and two fire stations when Mission Fire Chief Ricardo Saldaña began his tenure with the city.
Now, after watching the department grow to 75 employees and five fire stations, Saldaña has announced his retirement. The chief’s last day is set for Oct. 31.
City Manager Martin Garza said he plans to name an interim chief in the next few weeks. Garza said Saldaña’s been a big asset to the city and shown great leadership as the city has grown and services have stretched to meet bigger needs.
Garza said he’s sad to see Saldaña go, but he’s happy the chief we’ll be able to enjoy his retirement.
“We’re very grateful to have borrowed him from his family and his loved ones for all of these years, but at the same time family is very important to all of us, individually. I’m glad he has the opportunity to retire in a time when he’s strong.”
Firefighting is in Saldaña’s blood. His dad served as a volunteer fireman, as did his brothers. Even so, Saldaña almost went down a different career path when he graduated high school. He wanted to obtain an associate degree in law enforcement at the University of Texas-Brownsville, but the class was cancelled.
Saldaña served as a volunteer fireman in Mission until he was hired full-time six months before the second fire station was completed. Seventeen years ago, Saldaña was made chief.
“I came in at the peak of growth in Mission. Subdivisions were going up like wildfire,” Saldaña said. “I saw a lot of good things. I’m very impressed with what has transgressed with 17 years of me being chief. It’s not easy leaving a tenure that long, but we’ve progressed. We’ve been state recognized. We’re part of several state response teams.”
Garza highlighted the fire department’s low turnover rate and said that’s largely because of Saldaña’s leadership. The city manager plans to name an interim chief before Saldaña leaves.
Both Saldaña and Garza assured the chief would still be involved with the city. Saldaña said he plans to volunteer on some type of board or any capacity he can.
“Born and reared, staying here,” Saldaña said.