By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
Closing the book on one life chapter and beginning another is in the immediate future for retiring Portales firefighter Darwin Chenault.
Gathered in Portales City Hall chambers, members of the Chenault family, the Portales Fire Department and city officials expressed appreciation for Chenault’s 20-plus years of service to the department.
“All your years of service to the fire department are incredibly important,” said City Manager Debi Lee.
“I’m very proud to have served this community,” Chenault said.
Co-worker Mickey Hargrove talked of Chenault’s ability to respond to an emergency situation, whether fire or EMS, and assess what needs to be done, not only at that precise time but in the ensuing time, Hargrove said.
“He can look at an emergency situation, small or big, and see the whole picture,” Hargrove said. “He’s an unbelievable manager on the move, he thinks on his feet.”
Chenault says he has seen his share of incidents that have hit hard and even prompted a phone call home just to make sure that his family is OK. There have also been more light-hearted incidents that have sparked a smile or a laugh with co-workers.
Chief Raul Muniz spoke of Chenault’s leadership skills that he first noticed during a grass fire soon after Muniz arrived in the area. It was this encounter that prompted Muniz to promote Chenault from Battalion Chief to Division Chief.
“He’s the epitome of a leader. He’s made our fire department one of the best fire departments,” Muniz said.
For now Chenault, who officially retired March 31, will pursue other interests. He is currently an assistant baseball coach at Floyd and will also farm, he said.
“I’m lucky to have worked where I worked. I may be leaving but I’m not gone,” Chenault said.
For his family, the thought of Chenault retiring has been tough to comprehend and get used to, said his wife Sheri Chenault and daughter Darcee Benoit. Both stated that they have had a hard time with it simply because a firefighter is who Chenault has been and will continue to be.
“That’s who he is, he’s a firefighter at heart,” his wife said.
“There’s not a more honorable profession than being an EMS/firefighter,” Chenault said.