Just a little more than a year after taking the job, Salinas Fire Chief Pablo Barreto has announced his retirement, making him the second Salinas fire chief in as many years to make a quick exit from the department's top post.
Barreto, who spent 22 years at the Watsonville Fire Department and was chief there before coming to Salinas, cited family needs and personal reasons for the departure. He started in April 2019, and his final day will be June 30.
"Basically, in looking at the retirement package the city had and looking at some family dynamics going on, and family support that's needed and some of my own personal personal medical stuff, the timing is now," Barreto says. "It wasn't my intent. At the age of 54, I still have several years to work, but family needs come first."
He says Salinas "is a great city to work for, with professional, hardworking firefighters.
"It's hard to leave them. We've made a lot of progress and they've done a lot of great work," he says. "It's the key to their success. We're doing a lot of good things and maintaining a high level of service and we have to thank our firefighters for that."
The announcement means Salinas will once again launch a search for a new chief. During the last recruitment cycle, the city vetted 12 candidates from departments across the country before selecting Barreto.
While it's not unusual for firefighters to have side gigs, Barreto gained some measure of notoriety for his: He works as a Southwest Airlines flight attendant.
When that news was to appear in the Weekly's "Squid" column, Barreto told one of Squid's colleagues, “It’s a part-time job and I’ve been very open with the city about it from the beginning and very open with the department’s membership. It’s nothing to hide. Firefighters tend to do a lot of things on the side and so do I.”
The last chief, Jeff Johnson, resigned in February 2019 after only eight months on the job. He moved across the country and joined the Newport News, Virginia, fire department.
This story is developing and will be updated.