Thursday, September 28, 2023

Passion Ignites Bernalillo's New Fire Chief


The Town of Bernalillo might have gotten a little lucky in hiring a new fire chief.

Mayor Jack Torres said during the May 8 town council meeting that when the position first came open when Michael Carroll decided to step down, he was a little worried that the town might not be able to attract the kind of high-quality applicant he hoped could serve as an able replacement. Those concerns were quelled when Michael Lengendre put in for the job.

A 21-year veteran of Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue and an instructor at the state fire academy in Socorro, Lengendre has extensive experience training firefighters.

“He certainly meets, and exceeds the qualifications we asked for,” Torres said, adding that Lengendre was “far and away” the best of the applicants. “In interviewing him and doing follow up, I’m confident he’s the best fit."

The mayor said it became evident to him that Lengendre, 42, has the right temperament and has the right approach to lead the department.

The mayor added that, while not required, the search for a fire chief went through the standard hiring process. It included an interview committee that narrowed the list of finalists. The mayor did the final round of interviews himself, and made the final selection. 

The council unanimously approved the decision.

Lengendre will likely be sworn in at the council’s next meeting on May 22. His first day as Bernalillo fire chief will be June 1.

Lengendre spoke briefly after the voting, saying he was “very proud and honored to be afforded the opportunity” to be Bernalillo’s next fire chief.

After the meeting, revealed a few more details about his experience as a taekwon-do athlete and instructor in that field.

“I started when I was 8,” said Lengendre, who was born in Albuquerque two years before his family moved to Rio Rancho.

He got good enough where he represented the United States in International Teakwon-do Federation competitions, which took him to such far off places as Korea, Spain and Italy as a young man. He later owned his own taekwon-do school in Rio Rancho.

A Cibola High School graduate, he got associate degrees in fire suppression and EMS from Central New Mexico University. 

Starting as a firefighter/EMT with Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue, Lengendre worked his way up to engineer, training captain and captain. For 12 years he was responsible for training and was lead instructor at fire academies.

“When I retired, 75 percent of fire department personnel had trained under me,” he said.

Lengendre said he didn’t have any immediate plans for the fire department.

“I think it’s more important to listen more than talk,” he said. Decisions will come after access the department’s strengths and weaknesses, determining what can be built upon and where efficiencies can be made.

Lengendre attended the meeting with his wife of nearly four years, Maria, a captain with Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue.

“It’s better that we work apart,” she said when asked if she’d transfer to BFD. “I like being on the floor and running calls.”

Maria said Michael can’t sit still, and she’s not surprised he’s back in the trenches, so to speak.

Days after retiring from RRFR, he started work as a service salesman with American Fire Protection Group. That was less than a year ago.

“I love my job,” he said, “but there’s a big difference between a job and passion,” he said.

The position pays an annual salary of $98,800.


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