When asked about his reasons for choosing Bob Martin Del Campo as the new chief of the Hollister Fire Department, City Manager William Avera told BenitoLink, “He has a ton of ethics; he’s a stand-up kind of guy. He smiles a lot and when I checked his references, nobody talked bad about him.”
Avera’s reply comes in the aftermath of allegations of nepotism and overtime fraud by former Hollister Fire Chief Mike O’Connor. O’Connor was eventually cleared of those charges and accepted an early retirement package from the city.
“Most importantly,” Avera added, “Del Campo has worked previously at the Hollister Fire Department as captain and now he lives here.”
The Hollister City Council is slated to consider and approve Del Campo's hiring at its July 21 meeting, with him being sworn in on Aug. 1 if his contract is approved.
Interim Hollister Fire Chief Bill Garringer told BenitoLink, “Del Campo did a good job previously in 2001 to 2007 and he is a good fit for the job.”
Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velasquez agreed with the choice of Del Campo and explained that “he was laid off when the city had financial difficulties. But he took it upon himself to get training in Watsonville.”
Garringer said Del Campo moved on to become battalion chief at the Watsonville Fire Department and was division chief there for about six years.
Currently, Del Campo is both fire marshal and operations deputy chief in Watsonville. Plus, he recently got promoted to master sergeant in the Army Reserve.
Garringer related that Del Campo beat out 35 candidates and was selected by the city manager. Also, “Del Campo’s kids go to San Benito High School. He knows a lot of people here.”
Avera said that the City Council usually gives their chiefs the run of the fire department. “They can run it the way they see fit. Del Campo will be implementing new and better ideas for the system.” He hinted at the wealth of experience Del Campo gained from Watsonville.
Garringer explained that the situation has changed for the Hollister Fire Department in recent years. “Hollister now contracts to be the county fire department and also for the San Juan Bautista Fire Department. We’re now a county-wide fire department. Now there’s going to be four, not two fire stations.”
“Usually, there are three firefighters to a fire engine, 40 paid fire fighters and 18 on reserve. We have to get our reserves up to 50,” he said.
Garringer said there are a lot of applicants these days and “There’s going to be a new academy starting July 24 to train 17 new reservists. They recently passed their background checks and physicals. But it will be three more months before they are able to respond to calls.”
He said that the goal is to get close to 50 by October.
Garringer said Del Campo has a huge job ahead of him, helping to train the new firefighters. “When he was captain in Hollister, he was responding to calls. But he gained management experience from Watsonville. He’s now well-rounded. He also knows city laws, ordinances and building codes,” Garringer said.
Looking forward to resuming his interupted retirement, Garringer said he didn’t want to see any more fires and plans to be near water so he can do a lot of fishing.