Retired Fire Chief Joe Gonzales welcomes a hug from his wife Vicky.
Cathy Cook | El Defensor Chieftain

The Socorro City Council and mayor recognized former Fire Chief Joe Gonzales for his more than four decades of service during the most recent council meeting.

Gonzales retired in September after 42 years and one month of service. Gonzales became fire chief in 2005. He’s also been a Socorro County Commissioner since 2019.

Gonzales modernized the department and ensured it was well equipped, not an easy budgeting feat given the cost of vehicles like pumper trucks and ambulances.

“Our ambulance used to break down in Bernardo,” said Mayor Ravi Bhasker. “They’d have to come and change patients there. Joe just brought all that stuff. Modernized it. Continued getting it.”

Current Fire Chief Lawrence Baca, who began as interim chief in July after 24 years working in the department, thanked Gonzales.

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and for this department. It’s a better place than when you started. I hope to build off of that,” said Baca.

Gonzales said working at the department was easy because of the lessons instilled by his parents.

“Be the best at what you’re good at and that’s basically how we did it at the Socorro Fire Department and how they continue to do it. Be humble. Never forget where you came from. Treat people the way you want to be treated and just keep getting better, and every day’s Christmas.”

Gonzales became emotional as he thanked his wife.

“Technically she’s my wife, but, she’s my best friend. She’s the only thing that’s been a part of me longer than the Socorro Fire Department.”