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‘It’s good to be back’ Mission hires new fire chief

It’s been 25 years since Fire Chief Adrian Garcia lived in Mission, but he said he is glad to be back. The 49-year-old was born in McAllen but raised in Mission. He started his career in the fire service industry at the Mission Fire Department in 1991, but life’s path pulled him away from the Valley. Now he is back and ready to serve the first community he called home. 

Before becoming Mission FD chief, Garcia was in west Texas for about three years, building emergency service districts from the ground up in Reeves County. Prior, he was the fire chief and emergency management coordinator in Kingsville for three years. And before that, he was in the Fort Worth area for 20 years, moving up the ranks in the fire service industry. But the foundation of his 31-year resume is in Mission. 

Garcia said he remembers being a senior at Mission High School, wondering what to do after graduation. He comes from a law enforcement family and always assumed he would join the police force. But he had to wait until he was 21 to be an officer, and he needed a job for the time being.  

“And lo and behold, the PA system came on and it was the principal saying the Mission Volunteer Fire Department is looking for firefighters,’” Garcia recalled. “So my plan was to kind of do the fire service thing for a few years, turn 21, go to the police academy and then switch over to police. But I started the fire service and I just loved it.” 

Mission Fire Chief Adrian Garcia

Garcia did become a peace officer through the Mission Police Department reserve program. But he has spent most of his life in and around fire departments, and now he is excited to bring all his knowledge back to Mission. 

“I truly believe that the Lord has a plan. And he took me away for 25 years but I’m also coming back with a whole different perspective of the fire service,” the chief said. “By going away and doing those things, I’m able to bring that back now and hopefully implement some of these things, and continue to move our fire service in Mission forward.”

Garcia has been in the role of Mission fire chief since March 8. Right now, he is in what he calls discovery mode. He’ll spend the next few months talking to stakeholders and assessing department needs. From there, he’ll build an action plan to address the needs. 

But the chief said the department was already in phenomenal shape before his arrival. 

“The way it’s looking, we’ll need to do some tweaks but nothing major, I don’t think,” Garcia said. “I think the framework is there. And as a fire chief, coming into an organization that’s already well-situated and has good bones is awesome because then all I have to do is tweak it here and there, make a couple adjustments and continue to move forward.” 

The last two Mission fire chiefs have had contentious relationships with the firefighters union known as the Mission Fire Fighters Association. In the past, union members warned of a “toxic and hostile” work environment, but Garcia has already put forth the effort to start on the right foot. 

The new chief said the association expressed a lack of communication in the past. So Garcia and the union set up monthly meetings to keep the lines of communication open. Additionally, he provided written communication to department employees at all levels to ensure they understand the goals he is trying to accomplish over the next few months. The chief also said he wants to hold quarterly briefings with each shift so the employees can have direct dialogue with him instead of going through the chain of command. 

Garcia said he wants to understand the employees’ needs. 

“If it’s important to them, it’s important to me,” he said. 

Outside work, the 49-year-old said he enjoys fishing, hunting and riding his motorcycle. He’s already taken time to cruise around town and catch up on the things he’s missed around town since he’s been gone. The city has changed tremendously, he said. 

“I see remnants of the old Mission but, man, there’s just so much more now than there was back then,” he said. “I was raised playing on the streets of Mission and my roots are here. So to be able to come back after 25 years, it means a lot to me.”

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