Durango Fire Protection District Chief Hal Doughty, who has helped lead the fire department’s effort to build a new fire station in downtown Durango, announced he plans to retire at the end of the year.
“It just feels like it's time,” he said. “It feels like I've accomplished the things that I am good at and what I wanted to do.”
The fire district has already identified three finalists for the job, including DFPD deputy chief Randy Black and two candidates from outside the area.
The fire district declined to release the names of the two outside candidates, saying it wants to give them time to inform their current employers that they have been selected as finalists for a new job.
The public will have a chance to meet and hear from the candidates at a forum on Sept. 27 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Durango. The candidates forum will be from 6 to 7 p.m., and a meet-and-greet will be from 7 to 8 p.m.
Doughty, 55, said he plans to spend more time with his five grandchildren in Texas and running cattle on his ranch near Redmesa in southwest La Plata County.
“We'll definitely spend time in Texas, but I think that what you'll see is that we're Southwest Colorado folk,” he said. “ … For the most part, I think you'll see us always based here and doing some more traveling than we've ever been able to do before.”
This is not the first time Doughty has retired.
He previously worked for the Farmington Fire Department, where he has been drawing retirement, but he took a job with the DFPD as deputy chief of operations in 2009. He was promoted to fire chief about seven years ago.
He planned to retire last year, but agreed to stay on for an additional year to help get the downtown fire station squared away and help with the transition to a new chief.
Among his accomplishments, he points to facility and equipment upgrades, helping pass a mill levy increase and fostering a diverse workforce.
As for the bricks and mortar projects, he is proud of the Station 3 rebuild on 32nd Street, the development of a training center in Bodo Industrial Park and his negotiations to build a new downtown fire station at the existing River City Hall.
The mill levy increase was vital in keeping the fire department up-to-date in terms of being able to purchase new equipment and build new living quarters for firefighters.
“Just after I took over as the chief, it was clear that our future was pretty dim from a revenue standpoint,” Doughty said.
Voters approved a property tax increase in 2017, going from 5.7 mills to 8.2 mills. The fire department also worked with elected officials to increase impact fees on new development.
“That's another driver as far as our revenue stream goes and our ability to do things like replacing rolling stock and replacing bricks and mortar projects,” he said.
During his tenure, Doughty said the level of talent, education and certifications among personnel has only increased.
“We've built an incredibly diverse workforce here with people of all kinds of shapes and colors and creeds that is really reflective of the community that we protect,” he said.
The chief’s position was advertised nationally. DFPD board members had more than 20 candidates. Since then, the candidates were whittled down to six candidates. They did remote interviews and were able to whittle those down to three candidates.
“They're looking for people that have a history of being very strong fire service leaders that have a breadth of experience across both fire rescue and EMS,” Doughty said.