McAllen names new fire chief

James Schultz

The city of McAllen announced Wednesday it selected a longtime employee of the McAllen Fire Department as its new chief.

James Schultz, who had been serving as chief in an interim capacity, will take the top job in the fire department, the city announced in a news release Wednesday.

Schultz, who had been an assistant fire chief for the last eight years, replaces former Chief Rafael Balderas, who retired earlier this year.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling said the city and the fire department have already benefited from Schultz’s leadership as he has served the community in many roles.

“In every role that he previously served the department, he gave it his all to make himself and ultimately, the department better. He is the leader for this department that will stress service to the community and making sure each firefighter is trained and ready for their next level,” Darling said in the release.

In his work as interim chief, the city noted Schultz’s leadership in coordinating the fire department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, making sure the 198-member department was prepared, equipped, trained and ready to serve during all fire and medical emergencies.

Schultz said he is excited about his new role.

“I am excited to continue serving the community I call home, now officially as chief of the best fire department anywhere,” Schultz said in the news release. “The MFD is ready to serve our community, and I plan to make sure that our firefighters are ready to face whatever emergency, natural disaster, pandemic or fire that we may face, protecting life and property and working together with our fellow first responders and law enforcement to keep McAllen safe for every person who lives here.”

City Manager Roel “Roy” Rodriguez said the fire department is in good hands.

“We are very fortunate to have the excellence in the McAllen Fire Department that we do. The three finalists were all internal, which gives the community a sense of the caliber of personnel that we have,” Rodriguez said in the news release. “Our McAllen Fire Department is in good hands.”

During his tenure at the fire department, Schultz has worked as a driver, lieutenant, captain and training deputy, a role in which he was responsible for the mandatory continuous education of all 176 firefighters. As assistant chief, he was responsible for operations, training, fire prevention and the administrative support divisions. He also served as the public information officer and helped manage the department’s multi-million-dollar budget.

The city says Schultz has earned multiple certifications over the years and is also a member of numerous professional memberships and affiliations at the state and international level, in addition to serving on several local and regional boards and committees that promote fire and emergency planning, coordination and preparation.

He has a bachelor of applied science in organizational leadership and an associate of applied science in fire science from South Texas College.