Roughly a month after La Joya firefighters resigned en masse, leaving the all-volunteer department largely defunct, the city hired a new chief on Wednesday.
The La Joya City Commission hired Frankie Joe Salinas, 43, of Edinburg — a driver for the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department — on Wednesday afternoon.
Frankie Salinas faces a daunting task.
His predecessor, Fire Chief Leroy Salinas, resigned Sept. 30 to join the Peñitas Volunteer Fire Department. The La Joya volunteers followed Leroy Salinas, leaving the city in the lurch.
Frankie Salinas will start over from scratch, recruiting new volunteers and rebuilding the department.
“I’m excited,” Frankie Salinas said, adding that he wants to bring new ideas to La Joya, including public education about fire prevention and hands-on training for volunteers. “There’s going to be a lot of training.”
Frankie Salinas joined the Edinburg Volunteer Fire Department after graduating from high school.
“But prior to that I was a fire boy scout for the city of Edinburg,” Frankie Salinas said. “So I was actually in the ninth grade when I got involved with the fire service.”
The volunteer job, though, didn’t pay.
Frankie Salinas supported himself by working for Hidalgo County, taking jobs with the Motor Vehicle Department, the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office and the District Clerk’s Office.
Edinburg eventually offered him a full-time job in May 2011. He spent five years inspecting commercial buildings and investigating fires before taking a driver position.
“I’ve always liked serving the community,” Frankie Salinas said, adding that he views firefighting as public service.
When he heard La Joya needed a fire chief, Frankie Salinas drove to City Hall and asked for an application.
“I had the opportunity to talk to the leadership. And I kind of liked what I saw,” Frankie Salinas said, adding that the City Commission wants La Joya to provide the best possible fire protection. “And they want somebody qualified.”
How much La Joya will pay Frankie Salinas for the part-time position remains subject to negotiation. Leroy Salinas received a $1,200 monthly stipend.
La Joya also reviewed applications submitted by former Palmview Fire Marshal Severo Ochoa, who spent nearly 28 years with the McAllen Fire Department; Gilbert Salinas Jr. of Mission, a longtime volunteer firefighter; and Raul Cruz, the former vice president of Blackhawk Security & Investigations.
The City Commission selected Frankie Salinas after spending nearly 40 minutes in executive session.
“I just want to go on record that he is not related by blood to the mayor,” Fito Salinas said, adding with a chuckle: “And I hope one of these days he might be, I don’t know.”
Both Fito Salinas and his wife, Mary Salinas, serve on the City Commission with Maria E. “Geny” Salinas.
The surname isn’t limited to the City Commission. La Joya also employs Youth Services Director Juan D. Salinas and police Inv. Adan Salinas.
“It’s amazing, mayor, how we got so many Salinas applying here for the city of La Joya,” said City Administrator Mike Alaniz.