UPDATE: Andrew Salas had agreed to stay on until Wednesday, Sept. 21, to help with the transition, but “… the interim city manager didn’t see any further benefit to the transition period and asked him to leave, which he agreed to do,” Mayor Robert Noblin said Friday.
BELEN — “They never gave me an official reason,” Nick Moya told the News-Bulletin the morning after the Belen City Council voted unanimously to terminate him as fire chief.
Moya was appointed by Mayor Robert Noblin in January 2022 and began his position as fire chief with the city in early February.
The councilors also unanimously voted Tuesday night to accept the resignation of Andrew Salas, who has been the city manager since October 2020.
After a three-hour executive session Tuesday night, the councilors returned to an open meeting just after 10 p.m. to make their decision. No one gave a reason why the fire chief was terminated or why they asked for Salas’ resignation.
“At this time, there is not an official comment regarding the council’s decision to dismiss Nick Moya or (to) accept the resignation of Andrew Salas, since these are personnel issues and it is respectful to maintain the privacy of those involved,” Noblin told the News-Bulletin after the meeting.
Salas was first appointed city manager by former mayor Jerah Cordova, and Noblin reappointed him earlier this year. Salas agreed to stay on until Wednesday, Sept. 21, to help with the transition.
Rosann Peralta, the city’s Human Resources director and former finance director, will become interim city manager until someone else is appointed.
In an email statement to the governing body, city directors, community partners and the News-Bulletin, Salas encouraged employees to “rally around” Peralta as she takes on the new position.
“In spite of many daunting obstacles, you and all your employees never fail to persevere with selfless service and mission before self. Your contributions make a tremendous positive difference for our community,” Salas wrote, adding they “move mountains day by day to ensure our citizens and businesses are taken care of.”
He expressed gratitude to the current and previous governing bodies for giving him the opportunity to serve, saying they are dedicated to the people and businesses of Belen and “deserve honor and respect for the great responsibilities they carry. They care deeply for the city and its residents and businesses.”
Salas extolled the growth of the city, along with the increased revenues from that growth which has led to business owners investing in the city. The former city manager wrote that while the taxes the businesses pay make it possible to provide higher quality service, there are growing pains.
“There’s much work to be done to ensure our essential services and key infrastructure keeps up. Thanks to higher gross receipt taxes for the past two years we are increasingly able to hire more employees to alleviate the workload, better compensate our dedicated workers, keep our town increasingly safe and beautiful, and enable a higher level of mission accomplishment across the board,” Salas wrote.
“Yes, we all get impatient for positive change, but positive change is happening, and getting better by the day. With greater revenue we can relieve the overwhelming workload that gets inevitably delayed or that cannot have the level of attention to detail required.”
He closed his comments saying there was much more underway than he touched on in his email, with “lots of credit to so many who strive daily to make a difference. Each one of you has my honor and gratitude. May God bless and protect you all, and your loved ones, now and forever.”
Moya, who worked for the Valencia County Fire Department for 11 years prior to his appointment in the Hub City, said he’s disappointed with the council’s decision.
“The mayor asked me for my resignation last week, and basically said if I wasn’t going to resign it would go to executive session,” Moya said. “I had asked to speak in executive session … and I was denied my request to speak, and was asked to resign.”
Moya said he refused to resign because he has a family to support, and he and his wife are expecting another baby.
“I cannot afford to not have something to support us in the meantime until I get going again,” the former fire chief said less than 12 hours after being terminated. “I’m still scratching my head about all this.”
Moya isn’t sure what he’ll do next, but is planning to talk with other fire departments.
“I still want to be in the fire service,” he said. “If I have to start at the ground level and work two jobs, I’m going to prove myself.”
Moya said he is also disappointed he won’t be able to fully execute the plans he had for the Belen Fire Department.
“I think we were on track where we needed to be as far as getting the apparatus we need … and grants as well,” he said. “I was just getting ready to jump into the personnel stuff and getting it all sorted out. It’s hard, as a new director, to get anything going.”
Moya said he did enjoy his time with the Belen Fire Department, but admitted it was tough with a lot of turnover in personnel.
“We could have made strides in the department and for the community,” he said. “I’m just really disappointed.”
Deputy Chief Charles Cox will be interim chief until another chief is appointed.
City Manager Andrew Salas Resignation Letter
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.