Farmington Fire Chief David Burke emphasizes collaboration as he prepares to retire

Deputy Chief Robert Sterrett will take over April 1

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Farmington Fire Chief David Burke poses for a portrait, Friday, June 15, 2018, at the Farmington Fire Department.
  • Burke has been with the Farmington Fire Department for more than 23 years.
  • He became the chief in 2018 when Chief Terry Page retired.
  • He originally worked as a firefighter and paramedic in the Durango, Colorado, area.

AZTEC — During his time as Farmington fire chief, David Burke often has worked with community partners to find solutions to problems.

Burke is retiring from the position and hopes that tradition of collaboration continues with his successor, Deputy Chief Robert Sterrett. Sterrett will take the reins on April 1.

"I want to thank Chief Burke for his many years of dedicated service to the community and for his tireless work during the pandemic," said City Manager Rob Mayes in a press release. "For the past 12 months, Chief Burke has been assiduous in leading our internal COVID taskforce while also juggling his regular duties. We will miss having him as part of our leadership team but wish him well on the next chapter of his life."

During the past couple of years, Burke has partnered with the Farmington Police Department, Presbyterian Medical Services, San Juan County Office of Emergency Management and others to find solutions and improve the community.

More:Farmington says new approach to addressing intoxication yielded positive results

One example of that collaboration is the Alternative Response Unit. Firefighters and police officers teamed up to respond to down subject calls and transport intoxicated subjects to the Sobering Center. This program has grown and now uses a repurposed bus. 

More:Farmington fire, police pilot program for down subject calls

Another example of collaboration is the COVID shelter. Recognizing that not everyone has a place to go to quarantine, Burke teamed up with the San Juan County Office of Emergency Management as well as a business owner to create a shelter where people could stay. The shelter provided a place for first responders to stay if they needed to quarantine away from family. It also provided a place for homeless people to stay while in quarantine.

Michelle Jacquez, center, wipes away tears after Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe, left and Fire Chief David Burke, present her with a new vehicle to replace a truck, which struck a deer.

Burke was attending Fort Lewis College when he took an EMT class and decided to become a firefighter. He initially worked for about 10 years as a firefighter and paramedic in the Durango, Colorado, area before applying for a job at the Farmington Fire Department. He has been with the Farmington Fire Department for more than 23 years and became the chief in 2018 when Chief Terry Page retired. 

"I'm honored to be part of this organization and humbled by the service that the organization provides," he said.

Burke said the Farmington Fire Department has great leadership and great people. He does anticipate challenges in the future on the budget side, but he said there is a lot of opportunity to evaluate where the needs are at and how to better serve the community. He said funding is always going to be a challenge.

He said working with stakeholders and partners both inside and outside of Farmington is important to identifying solutions that will bring sustainable and significant improvements.

Farmington Fire Chief David Burke tries to hit Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe with a pool noodle, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2018, during a wack-a-mole activity during National Night Out at Berg Park in Farmington.

Burke said he has worked closely with his successor for the last several years.

"He has his idea of where the organization needs to go, and I have full faith in his decision-making, and his knowledge and skills and his ability to lead the organization into the future," he said. 

He said his advice to Sterrett is the same as it has been over the past several years — continue to reach out, never lose focus on serving the community, look for partners and look for collaboration.

"Together, the organization and the stakeholders are stronger," he said.

He encouraged having more voices and different perspectives at the table during discussions.

Burke said the community will face challenges, especially as COVID-19 has had a significant impact, but "together, we will get through it stronger on the back end. And, if we can keep some of the divisiveness out of our community, we can focus in on the good things and support actions working together to find solutions."

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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