Erik Litzenberg is going back to Fire. Eight days after going public with his decision to give up his position as Santa Fe's city manager, Santa Fe County announced in a news release Wednesday that Litzenberg has accepted the position of county fire chief.
Litzenberg will take a significant pay cut with this transition — from the $170,000 a year he earned as city manager to a $113,635 salary as county fire chief — but he says he has no hesitation in making this trade off to get back to doing what he loves.
Before this short stint as city manager, Litzenberg served as the City of Santa Fe Fire Chief from 2013 to 2018.
"My choice to take the [city management] position was never about money, and money has nothing to do with why I'm leaving either," says Litzenberg. "I had already chosen to step out of the city manager position before I was offered any jobs. I had a strong realization over the year and a quarter that I was working in the position that my real passion was in fire and EMS."
At the time of the initial announcement that he was stepping down, Litzenberg told SFR that he would play an integral role in managing the process of finding and hiring a new candidate for the city management position.
Now that he's accepted the role as fire chief with the county, though, he'll have a lot less time to make sure the transition at the city goes smoothly. Litzenberg is scheduled to begin in his new role on Sept. 16. But he says he's still going to make sure that the projects he worked on with the city get a smooth handoff, and will focus all of his energies in the meantime on finding a good candidate to replace him.
Most of the work that Litzenberg has done over the last year has had to do with team building and management, but even his pet projects at the city had to do with public safety.
"The health wellness and safety task force that we put into place that was looking citywide at all the safety practices, all the training that we do, all the policies and procedures that we do to keep our workforce safe, that one is extremely important to me," says Litzenberg.
When asked what he'll do as the new fire chief, he says it's too early to tell. But, he says, "What we were good at was finding the risks that exist in a community and then designing innovative programs to address those risks and that is what the county should expect from me as well."
The county's announcement reports that Litzenberg, who lives in Santa Fe with his wife and two young children, graduated from Santa Fe Prep and received his undergraduate degree in Kinesiology from the University of Colorado. He returned to Santa Fe to begin his fire service career in 1994 and "quickly moved up the ranks."
He replaces Chief David Sperling who is set to retire in mid-August.