By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — As of Thursday morning, acting Fire Chief Dean Creech was all set to retire at the end of the month.
Pension-eligible and seemingly out of the running for the full-time chief’s position, he decided it was a good time to spend more time with his family.
But by Thursday afternoon, Creech was back in the race to become chief of the department he’s headed for more than 10 months on an interim basis.
An apparent misunderstanding between Creech and Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. about whether Creech, if hired, would be willing to move to Dearborn was uncovered in a series of interviews with the two men. The result is that Creech once again is being considered for the job.
The residency issue is germane because of an administration policy that all department heads must be city residents.
Asked why Creech or another applicant hasn’t been hired for the position, O’Reilly said last Wednesday he had ruled out Creech because Creech wouldn’t move to the city. As for the long vacancy, O’Reilly said he didn’t want to hire a new chief while the city was mired in labor negotiations.
But it was the first comment that caused confusion with Creech on Thursday. The acting chief said that since interviewing for the position in November, he’s heard nothing further about it, and that during that process, his residency was discussed, but not resolved.
Creech acknowledged not being particularly thrilled with the prospect, since much of his immediate family lives within a block of his Wyandotte house, but said he understood it was a prerequisite when he applied for the position.
“During my interview, I posed the question of, ‘What about residency?’ and the mayor said that if you’re offered the job we would talk about it, similar to (Police Chief Ronald Haddad),” Creech said, alluding to the fact that Haddad hasn’t yet moved to the city since being named chief more than a year ago.
“(O’Reilly) said he would want residency, and he would want me to move in at the earliest possible convenience,” said Creech, “but I never had another residency discussion after that.”
When contacted about the discrepancy shortly after Creech’s comments, the mayor already had spoken to Creech, and said that the two agreed they had a misunderstanding. While Creech thought he left open the possibility of a move, O’Reilly said he thought that it had been ruled out entirely.
With the misunderstanding now an understanding, O’Reilly said he would reinterview Creech.
“We’ll definitely sit down and review this and go back over some things,” O’Reilly said. “This certainly changes things.”
Creech did not return multiple phone calls by press time seeking comment on what his plans are. If he decides to retire anyway, O’Reilly will have until June 30 to find a full-time chief or choose another interim successor. The position was held last on a noninterim basis by Nazih Hazime, who retired in July 2009.