With this series, The Independent wants to create a spotlight on important community leaders and officials in the small towns and cities we cover. We think it is important that the public gets to know the people who help make important decisions. Maybe it’s your town’s mayor, or the police chief in the next city over that you want to know more about. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Is there somebody you think would be a good candidate for this series? Let us know! Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.
Our first profile is Moriarty Fire Chief Todd Hart. Did you know his kids are 11 years apart? What about his favorite hobby? Do you know what he did before he was fire chief? Look no further, because we have all the answers.
The Independent: Where are you from?
Todd Hart: From Moriarty.
What did you like to do as a kid?
I was into sports quite a bit and working on vehicles when I was a teenager.
What kind of sports was it?
Football, baseball. Typical teenage boy sports.
Did you have any nicknames growing up, or even now?
Uhhh, no, none that I’ll say.
What did you want to do after graduation?
So, when I graduated, I actually had a dream to be a firefighter.
My next question was: did you end up doing that, but yes, you did. So, you wanted to do it when you were younger, but did you just go through the typical process?
I applied at AFR and all the big departments and did not receive a job. I had friends going into the military and I researched that, and they had fire fighters in the military, so I went in the Air Force and became a firefighter there and got all my training in Illinois. It was really good training and a good variety. Not only structural or wildland, but aircraft firefighting too. I was in the first Gulf War. In ’92 I went into the military, so I gave the other departments what I could, but it was very political back then, very hard to get in.
When did you leave the military and when you left did you go straight to firefighting in Moriarty?
No, so I got out of firefighting when I got out of the military. And worked at the hardware store. We own Hart’s Hardware here. And I loved firefighting, but I didn’t really want to be paid and I didn’t like the medical side of firefighting, which it was really going towards. So, I kinda just pushed that aside, worked at the hardware store, and my son started volunteering here in Moriarty Fire and asked me if I wanted to come volunteer since I had tons of experience, and I pondered it and I felt like I was too old at the time. But I came back, and I fell in love with it all over again. So, I’ve been back in it for five years.
Oh, okay. I thought maybe it was a lifelong career for you, interesting. So how did you become fire chief?
So, the position opened up, and there was a lot of changes I thought the department needed and so I decided I would apply for it and still try to do both jobs, which you can’t. There’s no way to do work at the hardware store, so I just focused all my energy here and the department has been growing.
So, tell me about your time at the hardware store.
My dad had actually been the original owner of the hardware store since I wanna say ’88 and I worked there for the other owner since I was 16. Customer service is pretty tough so when I was a kid, I hated it, and so I was looking at other avenues like firefighting and went in the military. Then my mom had got sick and the hardware store needed all the help it could so after I got out of the military I started working there again. When my dad passed away in 2002, it was just me and my brother then, and we worked as partners. It went from a little 5,000 square foot store to the big store we have now, and it just keeps growing.
So, do you only have one brother?
How was it growing up?
I think we’re typical brothers. I mean, we agree on a lot of things and we disagree on a lot of things. But not enough to where it separated us to where we hate each other, we’ve worked together well, and we’ve grown a great business being the partners we are.
So how is it now that your brother is the mayor?
It can be tough sometimes. So, since he’s the mayor, he’s not my actual supervisor since we’re brothers. Councilor [Bobby] Ortiz is my supervisor, so I answer to him and with any problems I’ll still go to the mayor. I feel like he needs to know what’s going on with his city and he direction the department is going in, so I still relay stuff to him and as well as my supervisor but it’s good, and for the most part he does a thankless job. I feel terrible for him sometimes for all the pressure he’s put under. And a lot of it is nonsense it seems, but people have the right to speak what they feel and he’s the one that wanted that position so he gets to deal with it.
I notice that you have a wedding ring, so you are married. Do you have children or grandchildren?
I have two children; I’ve been married 27 years next month. I have one son that is 24 that is trying to go to medical school, and I have an 11-year-old daughter. I have a big separation there, and believe it or not, it was planned out that way. My wife went to school to be a nurse, and so in between that time span of my son being a small adolescent and my wife being in school, we just felt like we didn’t have time to take care, but we always wanted more kids so once she got out of school we decided to have another kid.
Tell me about your kids.
I have an awesome son. Dedicated to school, he’s worked since he was 15 years old. I’d like to think that everything he’s got he’s had to work for which makes me very proud of him. And I see how dedicated he is to his schoolwork, and what he goes through with his schoolwork, I’m amazed at what he can do and how smart he is. I’m very proud of him.
My daughter is, she’s a free spirit. I love her to death. If she’s not happy, she’s asleep. She is happy all the time, and outgoing. She speaks her mind and she’s my angel.
Do you have any hobbies now when you’re not at work?
I do. I’ve gotten into gardening a lot. Maybe a little overboard my wife would think. So, when I leave here to unwind or to get my mind straight, I’ll go work in the garden for hours.
What do you garden?
Vegetables. We have fruit trees. We have small five-acre piece of land that we have south of town here that we have an orchard on. Or a beginning orchard. We plan on farming there so when I retire here, that’s probably what I’ll do.
Do you have plans to retire soon?
I don’t know. I love the job. The bad part about my job is it’s not all administration. It’s in the field too. And I worry about the public being taken care of, that was one of the problems I had with prior chiefs is we wouldn’t answer every call that we were told to and that’s not the way I want this department to be. If we get called for help, we should be there to help people and so at 3 a.m. I’m up listening to calls if I’m not going to them. So, it’s wearing on me. And we’re limited on manpower. People don’t volunteer anymore. And the rules are so stringent you just can’t take someone off the street and put them on a fire truck and have them put out a fire. So as for me retiring soon: I’m undecided. My health will determine that.
What is your favorite thing about being a firefighter?
I think the camaraderie between the firefighters. There’s nothing better than the joking and it’s like we’re a family ourselves here. You have your hard times and you have your great times but if you get us all together, we can have a blast and nobody’s feelings are hurt afterwards, so I would say the camaraderie of a tight-knit group of brothers and sisters here. It’s awesome.
What inspires you to work hard here?
I think just the title of being fire chief and the responsibilities and our department being the best we can be makes me want to strive to reach these goals so, not missing calls, saving lives, putting out fires. Just our responsibilities that we’re requested by the public to do, what they expect us to do.
So, I want to switch gears a little bit and do rapid fire questions. What’s your favorite movie?
I would say the Harry Potter series, I enjoy them.
What is your favorite musical artist?
I would have to say Def Leppard.
Favorite TV show?
You already said your favorite hobby. Gardening, right?
Favorite sport or team.
I watch football in the wintertime, and I love the LA Chargers. And baseball during the summer and I am a Yankees fan.
What is your favorite place to eat out?
In town I love Nachos. In Albuquerque, probably, we tend to lean towards oriental in Albuquerque so maybe Azuma’s.
So, these next few questions are just random questions I thought were interesting. If you could travel to any period in time, and live there, where would you go?
I would probably try to live in the U.S. in the 40s.
The 1940s? Why?
I feel like it was a different time. People had a little more integrity. The men were a lot stronger just because of wartime and all the hardships you went through. And I think the women kinda evolved there because they had to basically take over what the man was doing because he was gone at war. So, I think society was a little bit stronger back then and not as needy.
What makes you laugh the most?
Umm, what makes me laugh the most? I tend to joke around a lot and so I would say, even with my family, my immediate family, my nieces, my brother, and the crews here and the people with the city, just maybe teasing them or joking with them kinda makes my day. I’m not sure if that’s the correct answer or the answer you’re looking for, but I’m usually a pretty happy guy all the time.
So, would you say you’re more of a jokester or more of a prankster?
That’s tough, I like to do both. I would say a jokester.
Okay, tell me one of your funniest memories.
A good memory that I always fall back to is when I was in Saudi Arabia. I had a bunch of good friends in the military that were firefighters and we were playing a game of battleship between me and one of my best friends. My back was against the wall with my board and he was on the other side of the table, and then the rest of the crew with the dry erase board was behind him looking at his ships targets and writing them down on the dry erase board. He was getting so upset because every turn I had was hitting his ships and he was furious that he couldn’t hit any of my ships and that he was completely destroyed. He turns around and sees all the coordinates written on the board and the expression on the other people’s faces. It was hilarious at the time. I don’t know if it’s that funny now, but it was a good memory and a good moment.
So usually when I interview people I tend to skip over their time in the military, because some of them don’t want to talk about it.
I had a lot of good times in the military, I had a lot of rough times in the military, but the good times outweigh the bad times way beyond that. So, I don’t mind answering questions about it. If you choose not to ask me that’s fine to. Either way.
All I really ask is, how was your time, and how did your experience shape you as a person?
Boy, it’ll sure grow you up. And then the cultural differences of going overseas and seeing people in Third World countries and how they live. Not even Third World countries, a place like Saudi Arabia, the cultural difference is an eye opener, especially since you’ve lived in Moriarty your whole life. It’s a shock to see some of this and it’ll grow you up quick. It grew me up a lot. Did it shape me any better? I think my parents shaped me to the person I am, especially my dad. My dad was a hard worked and never stopped working until the day he passed away. So, I would say it was a good experience, it was a growing experience, but I attribute the person I am to my parents and how I was raised.
And you left for the military right after high school?
No, I enlisted I the military in ’91, at the end of ’91 and was in delayed enlistment to receive the firefighter position. So, I had to wait until a slot opened up, and I was guaranteed that slot. I went in in ’92 and I’d given the other departments the option to hire me, which, they hire whoever they want, very political. So, I was content with going into the military. We didn’t have ROTC or anything like that in high school. I would have probably been in that if we’d had it back in them times, but, no, I waited a few years.
How long were you in the military?
For four years.
And then you went back to work at the hardware store after?
Okay. So, what is your go-to karaoke song?
I like a lot of old Restless Heart. My wife tends to think that I sing Poison pretty well, but if we recorded it, it would probably sound like a banshee caught in a trap somewhere, is what I think.
If you were a superhero, what power would you have?
Well, that way if I do screw up, people couldn’t see it happening. The public has a big eye and they’ll pick out everything you do.
So how is it being under the scrutiny of your town all the time?
I don’t think it’s that bad. I tend to pride myself on my actions and my family’s actions and I try to take pride in the community, so if anybody sees anything bad that I’m doing, I would happily like to address it with them, but I don’t try to hide from anything. I don’t think it’s bad for the public to see what we do or what I do. Personally, I don’t think it’s right. We all need our privacy, but as for this job, they’re happy to come along any time they want.
I know you said you don’t work at the hardware store that often, or at all anymore?
Well, I tend to be the stock boy at night now so, as for customer service, I’m usually on duty during the day, so I won’t go in there unless we need to purchase something, or I have a question for the mayor. But at night, I’ll sneak over there and help stock, or do something of that nature.
Do people every look for you at the hardware store? Because yesterday I accidentally called the hardware store first, and the girl that was there said, “neither of the Harts are here right now, you’re in the right place but not really?”
I haven’t been told if they do, there may be people that look for me there, but they may not know that I’m in the fire chief position now. So, I don’t think they do, I hope they don’t, because I’m not there.
Just one last question. God forbid, but if you were to die tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be and how would you want people to remember you?
Well, I definitely don’t need to be praised. I think if people just reflect on what I’ve done for the community and the fire department, I think that would speak volumes. I don’t need to have a plaque or any praise or my name on a building or anything like that. I just think if they reflect on the job that, I shouldn’t say that I’ve done, but my crews and the job the city has allowed us to do, and the public. So, if they just reflect on that I’d be content with that.