New Braunfels is looking for a new fire chief after Kenneth Jacks suddenly retired from the department on Monday.
“It was time to move on,” Jacks said, who at first didn’t elaborate on the reasons why he retired after four years in the position.
“I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish here,” he said. “We were able to gain accreditation, got the bond passed to build (new) stations 2 and 3, and we are in the process of getting a new fire station built with a fire training center in the Creekside area.”
Jacks, appointed as chief in October 2014, officially took office that December. He came to New Braunfels after 27 years with the Richardson Fire Department, a 150-member department with six stations that provide fire and emergency management services to a population of more than 100,000 people.
Jacks has returned to the Metroplex, and now resides in McKinney near his daughters and grandchildren. His wife works at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Richardson.
“Change is difficult … the city’s having growing pains,” he said of New Braunfels. “But I’ll remember all of the good people and the nice people I met here. Central Texas is definitely different than the Metroplex. It’s different in the two things firefighters want, which is change and wanting things to stay the same.”
City Manager Robert Camareno confirmed Jacks’ retirement — which he said was not forced — on Wednesday. He said Assistant Chief Patrick O’Connell has been named interim chief while a search begins for a permanent chief.
“I don’t want to get into details involving personnel issues, but I do appreciate the chief’s contributions to our organization and his service to the community and I wish him well in his retirement,” Camareno said. “We now look forward with Assistant Chief O’Connell as interim chief during the transition and have begun the process of preparing an advertisement for the position and will post it as soon as it is completed.”
The city’s fire chief, in conjunction with the department command staff, performs departmental administrative activities including budget development and oversight, policy analysis, project management and strategic planning. The chief also supervises recruitment, testing, hiring, performance evaluation, employee recognition and development under the guidelines of Texas Civil Service laws.
Jacks has several certifications, including a degree in fire science from Columbia Southern University, and as a Texas Commission on Fire Protection Certified Master Firefighter, Master Fire Investigator, Master Fire Inspector and Master Fire Service Instructor III. He is also certified as a Fire Service Chief Executive Officer from the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.
Jacks, whose annual salary was $149,000, cited other programs he helped initiate while in New Braunfels, where he managed 135 firefighters and staffers.
“During my tenure we were able to get additional personnel and officers, establish a quartermaster’s position, and initiated a cost recovery program that funded our a vehicle replacement plan that didn’t burden the taxpayers,” he said.
But he said the time had come for someone else to take over.
“There will be some challenges here,” he said. “There’s a lot of stuff I could say that will have no purpose. I don’t want to sound like a whiner, but there’s a lot of good people in this fire department, but there are others who have their own agendas.”
Jacks said the timing of the bond, which passed on Saturday, also factored into his retirement.
“My direction and the city manager’s direction was in conflict, and it was time to move on,” he said. “But Patrick O’Connell will do a great job for the department, and I hope he gets due consideration when it’s time.”
Camareno pledged he would involve the department in the selection of the new chief, with the job posted between 30 and 40 days before reviewing resumes and scheduling interviews with the top prospects.
“There are times when change is not only good for the department but the individual as well,” Camareno said. “We certainly look forward to beginning the process of hiring a new chief.”