Retirement means different things to different people. For some it’s the long-anticipated opportunity to delve into a favorite hobby like woodworking, gardening or maybe even the banjo. It could be hitting the road in an RV, traveling coast-to-coast, visiting kids and grandkids, or stopping in at every ballpark or national park along the way. For the public service-minded David Wadley, who recently stepped down as Chief of the Telluride Volunteer Fire Department, retirement means another chapter in his career, that of San Miguel County Sheriff’s deputy.
Wadley, who was feted June 5 by his colleagues, said hanging up the suspenders after 20 years of service felt right.
“I was ready,” he said. “Those were some great times. All in all, it was an honor to serve.”
Wadley rose through the ranks starting as a firefighter, making captain and then chief, as well as accruing skills — such as wildland firefighter — that will benefit his new career as a peace officer.
“It’s a good skill set I bring to it,” Wadley said.
Telluride Fire Protection District Chief John Bennett lauded Wadley’s leadership abilities, calling him “an incredible public servant.”
“He was an important player,” Bennett said. “He helped change this organization by giving it professionalism. He has the heart of a public servant. It takes a special sort of person to commit to careers like that. I’m impressed and we’re grateful for his commitment.”
Wadley, who with his wife Kate, purchased a home in Norwood earlier this year, is settling into he new career, but was happy to reflect on his long stint with TVFD.
“My main takeaway is that I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve,” he said. “I had some great times. Calls were everything from exciting, tragic, or monumental, like the Baked in Telluride Fire. All in all, it was an honor to serve.”
Wadley also headed up the annual fireman’s Fourth of July fireworks show for several years and dove into the training required to move up in the ranks.
“I’ve done a lot in 20 years,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Bennett said Wadley’s focus and passion for the job never wavered.
“Our organization is changing and David was an advocate for that change,” Bennett said. “He was proactive. Throughout his 20-year career he was still charging. He did not relax.”
Wadley moved to Telluride 29 years ago. His involvement with TVFD is a standout chapter.
“It was a big part of my Telluride experience,” he said.
The last 18 months were “tough,” he observed, saying that the pandemic and increased demands on services took a toll on the department in terms of volunteers. Earlier this year, TFPD, which is funded by taxpayer dollars, announced the addition of 11 new paid positions, a move aimed to ease volunteer time commitments. Volunteerism, Bennett said in January 2021 Planet story, has been on the wane, a trend that has been observed not just locally, but nationally. The local housing shortage has impacted the district’s volunteer base, and while employers continue to be supportive of volunteers that can be called away at a moment’s notice, smaller enterprises that have to shut down when there’s an EMS or fire call, have been adversely impacted.
The new hires were made possible, in part, by the passage of a two-part ballot measure in 2018 that gave the district a two-mill increase on residential property taxes. The second part of the ballot question, which was comfortably approved by about 70 percent of voters in that election, sought approval to “de-Gallagherize.” The fire district asked to remove itself from the constraints of the Gallagher Amendment, a tax-related provision in the state constitution that has caused a drastic reduction in residential property tax revenue.
Wadley said his move to the sheriff’s department made sense. Several deputies he knows told him he’d be a good fit and an asset to the department. After graduating police academy where he earned his POST (Peace Officer’s Standards and Training) certification, he jumped right into what he said is work that is similar to that of his work with TVFD.
“I wasn’t ready to stop serving,” Wadley said. “Our job is to serve the community and that’s what I’m doing.”
Bennett hosted the banquet June 5 in Wadley’s honor, gifting the 20-year volunteer with a customized plaque.
“He cares,” Bennett said. “He’s not just words, but action. The plaque was a small show of gratitude.
Gratitude is a word and a feeling Wadley expresses liberally.
“I have nothing but gratitude,” he said. “When you get to the end it goes quickly, but I’m thankful I did it. It’s a great organization with great people. They’re kind people. They make Telluride Telluride. TVFD is the heartbeat of the community. It was an honor to be called Chief.”