Nick Debar, Ryan Smith, Tom Peterson honored for their service

ATASCADERO — The City of Atascadero honored three long-time employees for their years of service during a City Council meeting last Tuesday, Jan. 28. City Manager Rochelle Rickard recognized City Public Works Director Nick Debar, Wastewater Operator Ryan Smith and Atascadero Fire Department Battalion Chief Tom Peterson for their dedicated service to the City. 

Nick Debar joined the City’s Executive Management team five years ago as the City Engineer and Director of Public Works, beating out a slew of other highly-qualified candidates. 

“He was able to impress the panel with his really quick, off-the-cuff answer to one of the interview questions specifically designed to learn more about someone than the standard types of questions will typically give,” Rickard said. “We asked him, ‘If you were a box of cereal, what cereal would you be and why?’ His response was, ‘Corn Flakes, because they’re not very exciting but they do the job that they’re supposed to do,’ and that land him the job.’”

Debar is originally from Minnesota, but was familiar with California through his time at UC Davis where he graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and also from a stint serving as an intern with the City of Davis public works department. 


“We believe he was looking forward to trading the chilly Minnesota temperatures for our beautiful Central Coast weather,” Rickard said. “He sometimes tells us how much he misses the Minnesota weather of his childhood, but we don’t believe it for a minute.” 

Ryan Smith was originally hired as a maintenance worker with the City in 2004 and transferred to the wastewater division as a treatment plant operator in 2007. He is currently responsible for the plant’s maintenance, operations, laboratory, lift stations and collection system maintenance. 

“Ryan always accomplishes whatever needs to get done in a timely manner but he also consistently demonstrates a great deal of creativity, resourcefulness and pride while doing it,” Rickard said. “Ryan is a reliable and enjoyable coworker and is a very important member of our Public Works Team.” 

The City hired Tom Peterson as a Fire Captain in 2004 to serve as the City’s code enforcement officer and fire marshal. He was recently promoted to Battalion Chief and is responsible for the City’s Community Risk Reduction program, including the organization of all fire prevention activities, the enforcement of fire and life safety codes, building plan reviews, new business fire and safety inspections, the City’s weed abatement program, wildland fuel management, fire investigations, emergency preparedness and public education.

“He is truly an integral member of the fire department,” Rickard said. “He responds to emergencies and fills in as Acting Fire Chief when needed. Tom has a strong background in construction and home inspection, which are extremely valuable skills for his position. He provides great customer service and deals fairly with the public, contractors and those not happy about needing to have their weeds abated.” 

Before being hired at the City of Atascadero, Peterson serviced many roles at fire service agencies throughout the county including positions in Cambria, South Bay, San Miguel and Templeton. He is currently active with the County Fire Prevention Officers Association and the County Fire Investigation strike team. He spent more than 20 years working as a member of the County’s Hazardous Materials Team. 

“Tom achieved a personal goal in 2018 by obtaining his Bachelors of Science degree,” Rickard added.