Texas fire school chief steps down in April
Vol. 26 Spring
Les Bunte, director of the Texas Engineering Extension Service's Emergency Services Training Institute (ESTI), announced March 22 that he intends to retire effective April 15. The following is his official statement.
"Having already served almost thirty years in the municipal fire service and twenty-seven years as a Guest Instructor concurrently, I was granted the great opportunity to being named Chief of the Fire School at ESTI/TEEX in 2003. At that time, I anticipated and committed to the ESTI/TEEX leadership that I intended to remain with the Fire School for no less than five years but probably no more than ten years. It is very hard to realize that I have just started my ninth year at the School!
"Obviously, I am extremely proud of all the accomplishments that we made at the Fire School over the last eight years. I am particularly proud of the improvements made with the Annual Schools program. The improvements to Brayton Fire Training Field, curriculum, service delivery, business processes, and organizational culture were the result efforts of many. Without a doubt, the men and women who serve in our Annual Schools Program made it happen. We are truly the largest and best fire and rescue training school in the world and each of you contributed to that.
"During my time at ESTI/TEEX, some of you may know that I was also able to invest in personal business ventures that did not initially require time demands or create schedule conflicts. Over time, these personal business ventures have grown and evolved into operations that now require expansion and more of my time and attention. Thus, eight years after joining TEEX, I am at a crossroad of having to choose between continuing my service with the Fire School or focusing my efforts on these personal business ventures. Either choice requires a full-time commitment. I know that I cannot work for ESTI/TEEX forever, and like everyone else I need to adequately prepare for the future.
"After much introspect, I have submitted my retirement notice to TEEX Director Gary Sera effective April 15. Please know that this decision was not made in haste. My original intent was to announce my retirement sometime before this year’s annual schools in July and effective Sept 1. However, with some other recent developments in these business investments that timetable has to be moved up. I notified Gary over a month ago that my leaving was probable, and notified him verbally some 10 days ago that I would be leaving. He received my written notice yesterday. So again, this decision has not been in haste and I knew that my tenure at TEEX was nearing an end.
"The leadership in each of our Annual Schools are very strong and our organizational and planning processes have never been better. Thus, I am very confident that the efficient operations of our future Annual Schools will continue regardless of who serves as Chief of the Fire School. I am very confident that these leadership teams led by Interim Division Director Robert Moore will provide for sound business continuity while the selection process for a new Division Director takes place. Please continue to put strong faith in our people and our business processes as neither has failed us.
"Please know that my schedule is very tight for the remainder of the week. I have to be in Austin tonight to participate in a Legislative Day on Wednesday, travel to Indianapolis later that evening and attend the Fire Department Instructor Conference on Thursday and a meeting of the North American Fire Training Directors Association on Friday arriving back in College Station extremely late on Friday night. I tell you all of that so you will know I am not MIA for the rest of the week or avoiding any email/phone call contacts with you!
"Thank you so much for the support and respect you have extended to me the last eight years. During Annual Schools, I always felt like I had “walked in your shoes” and most of my decisions for the school was based on that experience. Only history will show if we made a difference in this school.
"My greatest honor has been to serve you as the Chief of the Fire School and to proudly serve with the men and women of ESTI/TEEX. I will forever be proud of each of you!"
A 29-year veteran of the Austin Fire Department, Bunte served as assistant chief for eight years, prior to retiring in November 2002. He also served as fire chief for the combination paid/volunteer Fire Department in Georgetown, Texas.
Bunte earned a bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State University and a master’s degree from the University of Texas LBJ School Of Public Affairs. He is a graduate of the Harvard University Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government and the Executive Fire Officer Program of the National Fire Academy.