SAN BENITO — The city’s firefighters helped pick their new boss, Mayor Rick Guerra said Friday.
Earlier this week, city commissioners appointed Weslaco Fire Department Lt. Efrain Bautista to serve as the city’s fire chief, nearly six months after former Chief Danny Watkins died after suffering complications stemming from COVID-19.
Bautista did not respond to requests for comment this week.
For about 16 years, Bautista, who holds a bachelor’s degree, has climbed the ranks at the Weslaco Fire Department, Guerra said, adding officials reviewed about six candidates for the job.
“He’s the one our fire department is leaning into,” Guerra, a retired Harlingen firefighter, said. “He’s got more higher education than the rest of the (candidates).”
Bautista’s got the experience to help further develop the city’s fire department, Guerra said.
“We’ll try to help him transition from Weslaco to San Benito,” he said. “He’s got new ideas. I want him to get the fire department moving forward. We wish him the best of luck.”
At City Hall, spokesman David Favila said officials hadn’t determined Bautista’s salary.
When officials hired Watkins in August 2019, they set his salary at $75,000.
At the time, Watkins became the city’s first fire chief in nearly two years.
In January, Watkins was 67 when he contracted the coronavirus before he died in a Houston hospital after a weeks-long battle.
Less than six months earlier, he replaced former Fire Chief Raul Zuniga.