FARMINGTON — A former high-ranking Farmington firefighter starts a new job Monday as chief of the New Mexico State University Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

Mario Acosta, 48, served for more than 20 years in the Farmington Fire Department before retiring in June 2007 as operations battalion chief.

Most recently, he was deputy chief of Woodinville Fire and Rescue in Washington state near Seattle.

Acosta grew up in southern Colorado and Farmington, attending local schools before earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

Acosta said he has family ties to the Las Cruces area, and a daughter attended NMSU.

“We feel it’s a great opportunity to come home,” he said.

NMSU has a small fire department focused on training and development. It has four administrative staff along with 14 firefighters who also attend school as full-time students.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Acosta said.

Darrell Smith recently retired as NMSU’s fire chief.