Tonya Mercer: Running with the guys at home and at work
Craig — She may not be out on calls with firefighters, but Craig Rural Fire Protection District’s administrative assistant Tonya Mercer keeps plenty busy holding down the fort.
“I do all the ins and outs of keeping the lights on,” Tonya said with a laugh. In addition to keeping the lights on and the water running, Tonya sorts through payables and receivables. She prepares material for board meetings and makes sure the district meets all of its statutory deadlines.
For the next election of fire board members, she said she’d be responsible for “pulling that election together,” and she shares Facebook duties with Captain Kevin Kernen.
Tonya also processes payroll and pension checks. She said the payroll she does process isn’t much.
“They spend way more time down here than what they’re actually being paid for,” she said.
Tonya answers to any of her 12 bosses; five who serve on the board of directors and seven who are fire department officers.
The firefighters themselves are a large part of why she enjoys her job and volunteered with the district for years even before becoming the administrative assistant. Plus, Tonya’s husband Chris has been a firefighter with the district for over a decade.
“They’re just the greatest organization ever. Who doesn’t like hanging out with firefighters?” she said. “They’re pretty cool guys and they do some really amazing things.”
While volunteering for the district, she’s worked all over Craig. Her employment across the place that “just feels like home” to Tonya includes Country General (now Murdoch’s), two different jobs at The Memorial Hospital, Craig Fire and Safety and American Family Insurance.
After college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, Tonya and Chris came back to Craig.
“We were just done being in the city, you know?” she said.
The Mercers came back to Craig for several other reasons, too.
“I like that it’s quiet here, I go home and I don’t worry about it,” Tonya said. “I like that I can still feel safe with my son walking from school to here afterwards and not worry too much about who might steal him or what might happen to him.”
She also said Craig’s rugged, open landscape appeals to her family. They rock-crawl, canyoneer and repel together. Chris and Tonya’s 9-year-old son Garrett enjoy dirt biking together. The family tries to visit a different national park every year.
“We go on little adventures all of the time,” she said.
Rock-crawling means driving highly modified vehicles over extremely rough terrain. Chris built his own “buggy” (lightweight automobiles with off-road capabilities) to use in rock-crawling competitions. Tonya has both driven and spotted a rock-crawling vehicle. Spotting in rock-crawling means standing outside of the car or riding in another vehicle, giving the driver of the “buggy” directions.
Chris and his brother-in-law won nationals in 2010 for the F-toy class.
And Tonya isn’t just a bystander while Chris rock-crawls, canyoneers and repels. Though you might find her quilting or sewing her son’s Halloween costume on a Sunday afternoon with a cat curled up on her lap, she doesn’t mind getting dirty.
“I’m kind of domestic, but I’m not afraid to run with the guys,” Tonya said.