A few weeks before his first day as the Portales fire chief Steve Beaty dropped in at the fire station hoping his future employees could provide him directions around town.
But instead of introducing himself as the new boss-to-be, Beaty just asked for the directions and “listened.” What he heard then makes him chuckle now: A group of fire fighters “cutting up” and wondering out loud what kind of chief they could expect in three weeks.
When one of the fire employees recognized Beaty and introduced him to the curious bunch, Beaty said he saw more than a few jaws drop.
Beaty noted the experience will be one of the many memories he takes with him when he retires from his position on March 31, a little over three years after he started.
“Several things have touched me and moved me about Portales and some of the things are how the citizens view the fire fighters here,” Beaty said. “For example, on 9/11 they would bring food and on Christmas they would bring turkeys and do just thoughtful little gestures. They just recognize the fire fighters and I had never really seen that before.”
Beaty cited a cap on retirement benefits and a desire to go into management or consulting as reasons for leaving a 22-year career fighting fires to move to Albuquerque.
City officials said they will miss Beaty dearly.
“He is a very good leader in his department and I think the whole department looked up to him,” Mayor Orlando Ortega said. “He’s a very well-organized person and knew his job very well. He’ll be hard to replace — sure (others) are out there, but he is unique.”
Ortega added: “He’s a really nice fellow with a good heart, but he’s retiring and getting married and he’s as happy as can be. He deserves all the best — he really does.”
Beaty’s co-workers added that Beaty is a relaxed boss and easy to work with — but at the same time he takes his job seriously.
“He’s great to work with, a lot of times a lot of fun and doesn’t take life too seriously but took his job seriously and did a good job at it,” Battalion Chief Jesse Mowrer said.
Mowrer said some of Beaty’s greatest benefits include his ability to obtain grants for necessary fire and rescue equipment.
“He’s done a really good job providing needed equipment and other necessary items needed to keep the place running well,” Mowrer added.
Beaty began working as a fire fighter in Roswell in his early ‘20s and worked his way up to battalion chief before landing the job in Portales.
“I’ve been doing this for almost 23 years and it has always been part of my home and my life,” Beaty said. “You spend a third of your life when you’re on 24 (hours) on (duty) and 48 (hours) off with the employees who you work with — and they become part of you.”