On the same day Mark Essary hung up his gear at the Chandler Fire Department he took over chief duties at Houston Mesa Fire District.
Not one for sitting around in retirement after serving with Chandler for 32 years, Essary said he knew he would have to find something to do. Luckily, he only had a few hours in retirement to contemplate his options.
Essary was sworn in as Houston Mesa’s chief Tuesday, the only paid member of the volunteer-ran district.
Although the district’s new chief, Essary has been fighting fires in Rim Country for years.
For six years, Essary served as Whispering Pines fire chief. Essary retired from that post three years ago to spend more time with family.
While serving as Whispering Pines chief, Essary also pulled double duty as one of Chandler’s captains. As Whispering Pines expanded from serving one community to six, this combination proved time consuming and Essary could not give either department or his family the time they deserved.
Now fully retired from Chandler, Essary has the time to devote to the small district in Mesa del Caballo.
Remarkably, the day Essary decided to retire, he learned from a friend that Houston Mesa was looking for a new chief. Former chief Chuck Jacobs left the district earlier this year due to failed contract negotiations.
“Everything just fell into place,” Essary said of the timing.
Essary’s wife Cheryl is planning to join the district as a volunteer firefighter and EMT.
Currently, the district has a dozen volunteers.
As a paramedic, Essary brings with him a valuable skill set that will help the district expand from offering EMT medical service to paramedic services. Before the district can do that, however, it needs to acquire paramedic gear, which is expensive.
Essary said getting new gear is one of his goals, along with strengthening the working relationships with neighboring fire districts, including Beaver Valley and Whispering Pines.
“Mark has plans for HMFD, he will work to increase our community involvement, build stronger relationships with our neighboring departments and secure grant funding we desperately need to expand our services,” said Lori Webster, chair of the HMFD board.
One of the board’s top priorities is extinguishing the stigma that they do not work well with other departments or themselves.
“They want to move forward in a positive way,” Essary said.
“Whatever the past is, they want to put it behind them and have progress instead of regression.”
Essary was one of three candidates interviewed for the position.
“The governing board would like to thank Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi for participating in our final interview process. His experience and knowledge were invaluable,” Webster said.
In other news, longtime Mesa del residents Dick Sizemore and Jeanne Schoonover joined the HMFD board.