City Manager Tom Frutchey Swears Stornetta Into New Position

Time flies. It was just 6 months ago when PASO Magazine readers were learning about Jonathan Stornetta being sworn in as the new Interim Fire Chief. Since graduation from high school, he had been working around fire departments until he was encouraged to become a fireman himself. He landed a full time position as firefighter and paramedic in Morro Bay until he was recruited to El Paso de Robles in 2001. In 2003, Jonathan was promoted to Captain and in 2006 was about to become appointed Battalion Chief but concluded he wasn’t quite ready for that yet. He decided to remain as Captain until the time was right. That next opportunity came up ten years later! When Ken Johnson who was the Fire Chief, retired, a temporary Chief was brought on from Santa Ana while the City Manager, Tom Frutchey, and the interviewing team looked for a permanent solution. They probably thought right away that Jonathan was the right person but being Fire Chief and Head of Emergency Services is a really big deal. And so, Mr. Stornetta was promoted to be the Interim Chief with a time-line of 6 months for all opportunities to be explored.

Photo by Chuck Desmond
Paso Robles Fire Chief Jonathan Stornetta stands at attention during his swearing in ceremony in Paso Robles.

Jonathan is a man who has long said, “I just always wanted to help people.” That’s a good thought and it needed to be balanced with much more than putting out fires. The job description also includes: Public Safety, saving lives and property, managing a department of 27 including 13 paramedics, community leadership, displaying (and living) the values of duty and honor above self. From a logistics view, there were 3,800 calls to 911 last year. That’s way up from the 2,900 the year before. 65% of all calls are medical emergencies; 7% are real fires and 12% are minor incidents like falls in the home or workplace. Paso has 2 fire engines and each is manned by three persons when it flies out of the garage. We have a ladder truck, a heavy-duty rescue-vehicle and an aircraft rescue-vehicle stationed at the airport. A response time of less than six minutes is the mandate for 90% of all calls. With a growing number of the community moving slightly East, there needs to be a new station out on 46 East someplace. The Fire Chief needs to lead that long list of decisions about when, where and who. Jonathan’s “Interim 6-month position” was not a walk in the park. He hit the ground running and his plate was full. Oh yeah, his wife and two children wanted a little of his time too!

And so, this man that looks ya right in the eye and knows what needs to be done, was watching his bosses just as they were watching him. The position was posted and qualified applicants from across the entire State applied. As Jonathan and his wife spent loads of time making their decision that “he should go for it” he also had to prepare for what became a grueling series of intense interviews. Every candidate was given the same courtesy and grilling. One by one, they were eliminated as Interim Chief Stornetta rose like cream to the top. On March 30, the announcement was made and the word “Interim” was removed from the title.

As you read above, Emergency Services is a hectic job. But finally, a time slot was carved out to make it official and spread the word. May 7 at 9:00 in the morning in City Hall, in a room full of over 70, the official swearing-in ceremony took place. Fire Chiefs from across the county, some of our police officers, Paso City officials and Jonathan’s family all watched as Mr. Frutchey did indeed make it official. The applause was long, loud and well deserved.

Congratulations, Chief Stornetta. Paso is darn lucky to have you!