James DeFillippo

The search for a full-time Rio Rancho Fire and Rescue fire chief has ended. 

The City of Rio Rancho selected Jimmy DeFillippo as its permanent fire chief.  On Thursday evening, the governing body approved his appointment. 

DeFillippo had been the interim chief since September, when former Fire Chief Paul Bearce retired after 20 years.   

“He’s been doing a great job for us and we appreciate him, and we look forward to working with him in the future,” Councilor Daniel Stoddard said via Zoom. 

DeFillippo told the governing body he appreciated the support and confidence the city has in him. 

“It’s a great honor to serve and lead in this capacity,” he said. 

The city interviewed five candidates for the position before deciding that DeFillippo was the right person for the job. 

‘You still do the work’ 

DeFillippo has served with Fire and Rescue for 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic, station captain, emergency medical services training captain and deputy director before becoming fire chief. 

“Since becoming acting fire chief in September 2021, DeFillippo has been directly reporting to me, which allowed for an extensive evaluation of his leadership, decision-making and planning capabilities,” City Manager Matt Geisel said in a city memo, adding that “his appointment will eliminate any transition/adjustment period that is typical when an individual is hired to manage a department from outside the organization.” 

Although the interim tag has now been taken off, DeFillippo told the Observer, “You still do the work and make your department great.” 

“Last night after being appointed, I thought I would have a huge weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “But while looking at the crowd of citizens, a new weight had come on my shoulders. A lot of people are counting on me. I (have) a lot of people that are relying on me to make sure I do a great job. 

“I really got to get to work and make sure we’re doing a great job. I don’t want to let anybody down.” 

Moving forward, the new fire chief not only wants the fire department to continue improving its response times, but also to do more community outreach. 

“What are their needs?” DeFillippo asked. “We have a unique community in Rio Rancho that has different needs than different parts of the state.” 

Trying to meet those needs is a “top priority,” he said.