County’s Vehicle Maintenance Manager Driving into Retirement

In 1994, with the housing industry in midst of a downturn, James Aguilar closed his Santa Fe-based home framing business and returned to his roots as a mechanic.

He accepted a job with Sandoval County because, “I decided it was time to get something stable.”
Twenty three years later, Aguilar, now the county’s manager of vehicle maintenance, is scheduled to retire at the end of this year.
His position with the county obviously proved stable, but Aguilar has witnessed much change during his long tenure as a coun-ty employee.

When he started, Aguilar said, the vehicle maintenance shop was “an old tin building next to the detention center.”
The county’s vehicle fleet consisted of roughly 60 vehicles, primarily Sheriff’s Department cars and a few assigned to county administra-tive departments. However, the county was at the beginning of a growth cycle, and Aguilar had been hired primarily to maintain some newly acquired heavy equipment.

“They had just bought some new dump trucks, road graders and front-end loaders,” Aguilar recalled. “They were replacing some pretty antiquated stuff.”

A little pickup with plastic buckets

While this equipment was new, Aguilar’s working conditions were still pretty primitive when compared to conditions today. He was one of three mechanics employed by the county at the time, and he spent his days driving to work sites to service the heavy equipment.

“I drove around in a little Chevy pickup with a bunch plastic buckets that I used to hold the oil and fluids that I drained out of the vehicles,” he said.

Things started changing a few years later when the county acquired land near the site of current landfill to build a bigger vehi-cle maintenance garage. When he retires, Aguilar will be leaving a staff of seven—five mechanics, a foreman and an adminis-trative assistant. That group maintains a fleet of 570 vehicles.

Some of the mechanics drive trucks with pumps to drain fluids from heavy equipment serviced in the field rather than using plastic buckets. “We really have grown,” Aguilar said. “We’ve taken on the fuel stations, and modernized the whole operation quite a bit.”

Aguilar said he’s enjoyed his time with the county, but he feels it’s time to relax a bit. His official retirement date is the end of December. At that point, he’ll look forward to the month of May, when his longtime girlfriend retires from her job as a school teacher.

“We’ll probably do some traveling, and see where life takes us,” he said. “It’s time to see a little bit more of the world.”