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Nueces County Fire Marshal position in question following resignation

Future of Nueces County Fire Marshal position questioned following resignation
Posted at 9:37 PM, May 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-23 23:32:15-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It depends on who you ask whether the resignation of Nueces County Fire Marshal Jose Olivares was a good thing or a bad thing for the county.

Olivares resigned Friday, 10 days after 6 Investigates reported that he lacked certifications that his job description required him to have.

That was reason enough for Nueces County Precinct 4 Commissioner Brent Chesney to agree with Olivares's decision to step down.

“I don’t know how you hire someone who doesn’t have fire experience to be a fire marshal,” he said.

County Judge Barbara Canales disagrees.

She hired Olivares, and she says he did a great job helping the county get through the COVID-19 pandemic and the deep freeze of February 2021, among other things.

Canales called his resignation "a loss" for the county, and she thinks a proposal commissioners will consider at their Wednesday meeting would be another bad move.

“Defunding a strong emergency management personnel is a going backwards, not forwards,” Canales said.

The item on the commissioners court agenda uses the word "reallocation" when referring to the funds for the fire marshal position.

Chesney, who submitted the agenda item, would like to use the money to pay other agencies for services that a fire marshal would provide — either on a long-term basis or until the county could find a qualified fire marshal candidate.

“Does it have to be a county fire marshal? No. Could it be? Yes," Chesney asked and answered. "We just have to be flexible, and let’s let it play out. But, let’s make sure we reassure the residents that we’re going to have these services in place."

Canales says those services are going to be in higher demand for residents in the future, as more industries come to the county and the risk of wildfires increases.

That's why she wants money currently earmarked for the county fire marshal position to stay that way.

“Building this office now is what’s needed," Canales said. "Why would you want to reallocate funds when you can build emergency management now?”

It's unclear whether Chesney's measure has the three votes needed for it to pass.

One fellow-commissioner would like reassurances that the reallocated funds would go toward ensuring residents receive the services a fire marshal provides while the county researches whether or not having its own fire marshal is the best course of action.

"I would support that," Nueces County Precinct 2 Commissioner Joe Gonzalez said.