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Josh Capper face of LM Fire for now
After more than 10 years of being greeted by a message from former fire chief Gene Neely – who has since retired – it is now acting fire chief Josh Capper that graces the district’s website.

Josh Capper might only be the acting fire chief for the Lathrop Manteca Fire District, but Josh Capper’s message is now what greets the public when visit the agency’s website.

With the unexpected retirement of former chief Gene Neely – who spent more than a decade at the helm of the district – the fire board tapped Capper, a former battalion chief, to step into the role while a decision about a permanent replacement is made.

A longtime district employee that began as a firefighter, Capper hopes that his collaborative management style will help carry the district into a new era.

“Change is never easy. Chief Neely was the Fire Chief for our organization for over 10 years,” Capper said in his introductory message on the website. “As the Acting Fire Chief, my responsibilities will be to move the first district in a positive direction until such time a permanent fire chief can be appointed by the board.

“Ultimately, I want our team to succeed in maintaining the positive work that was done. I bring a collaborative management stye and over 20 years of fire experience.”

In addition to having the experience of working his way up the fire service ladder Capper, a licensed paramedic in the State of California, also holds associate degrees in fire science and business administration and both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from California State University, Stanislaus.

Neely’s retirement came after a brief period of administrative leave from the district. In his tenure he oversaw the construction of the new fire headquarters in River Islands as well as the current expansion of Station 31 on J Street in Historic Lathrop.

Neely took the reins of the district just as it was figuring out how to handle a massive budget crunch that forced layoffs thanks to the extensive downturn in the housing market and helped navigate the district to its best financial position in years – adding personnel as well as apparatus and helping to negotiate fire facilities fees that ensure that growth pays for the essential services that a growing community needs.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.