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Atwater welcomes new firefighters, department head

Atwater welcomed three new reserve firefighters, as well as a new director for the Public Works Department on Monday night during the City Council meeting.

For the ceremonies, city leaders were joined by Captain Blaine Lopes of Atwater’s Station 42, along with Cal Fire Battalion Chief John Slate.

Lopes began the badge pinning ceremony by explaining to those in attendance about the arduous process reserve firefighters must undergo to become a part of the team. New applications first make their way through a review process to ensure that applicants meet a basic set of minimum requirements. Once selected, potential hires must next pass a physical agility test and make their was through an interview process regarding the fire service and what they can contribute to it.

Finally, upon being hired new reserves then go through a basic skills program that provides additional training on how to handle hazmat, confined space, public first aid administration, auto extrication, as well as wild land firefighting techniques, fire behavior and more to ensure they are capable of dealing with anything they will face.

The new reserve firefighters honored during the night included Caesar Castaneda-Nunez, Bradley Woolever, and Noe Ortega. As a show of support, Atwater’s Fire Department showed up in full force to attend the badge pinning ceremony for their new comrades.

Later, after a unanimous vote by the City Council to approve his hiring, Atwater’s new Public Works Director Vernice Haddix made his way to the floor.

City Manager Lori Waterman noted that Haddix comes to Atwater with “20 years municipal experience in public works,” and that she found him to be a particularly good fit because he shares the positive outlook for Atwater that the city’s current administration has.

“He shares my vision as well as a council vision to ensure success for the department and develop team leadership and a succession plan,” Waterman noted.

After being welcomed to the floor by Mayor Paul Creighton, Haddix greeted those attending Monday night’s meeting as he spoke to the public for the first time.

“Good evening, I look forward to working with all the community members as well as the City Council,” Haddix began. “I am a considered to be a transformational leader. I don’t come in with a big stick. We solve problems together. I’m looking forward to meeting with the staff. I’ve been to the yard a couple of times and there’s a lot down there that needs to be done, but there’s willing participants in the yard and so I’m grateful for that.”

Haddix finished by saying that he’s looking forward to what he envisions as an enjoyable journey with the City of Atwater and its residents, who should plan to see improvements quite soon.

“I believe that people will see a difference in the Public Works Department and hopefully it will not take long. So thank you very much and I’m glad to be here.”

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