By J. PATRICK PEPPER
DEARBORN — A combination of experience in the public and private sector, as well as a lifetime of living here are some of the top reasons city officials cite for the recent hire of Richard Miller to lead the Fire Department.
For Miller, who will assume his new duties July 12, it means a return to the department where he spent his entire firefighting career after three years in high-level private sector management. It also means the realization of a longtime aspiration.
“I’ve always wanted to be chief,” Miller said in an interview Thursday, “and everything kind of just came together at the right time. I couldn’t be any happier, and I can’t wait to get down to business.”
Miller has an extensive education background in fire science. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University’s School of Fire Staff and Command in 2001; from Madonna University in 1984 with a bachelor of science degree in fire science and occupational safety and health; and from Henry Ford Community College in 1980 with an associate degree in fire science.
Additionally, he holds several occupational certifications, including areas such as incident command, tactical operations and hazardous materials.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. said in a statement that he chose Miller because of his background with the Dearborn department, his education credentials and his experience in the private sector.
“I’m pleased to appoint Richard Miller to the top leadership position and know that he will work well with the outstanding men and women of our Fire Department to continue to move it forward,” O’Reilly said. “His priority is my priority: to keep providing excellent public safety services to the residents of Dearborn.”
O’Reilly also praised Dean Creech, who had been acting fire chief since the retirement of Nazih Hazime last summer. Creech only recently had become deputy chief before stepping into the larger role.
“Chief Creech has done an excellent job leading the department and preserving the high standards residents expect. I want to thank him for his dedicated and professional service to Dearborn, not only as acting chief, but throughout his entire career,” O’Reilly said.
Creech retired effective last week.
Facing Miller as he takes over the job is a confounding confluence of circumstances: mandatory minimum staffing levels, rising employee costs and a receding tax base to pay the bills.
Tradeoffs of some kind will be necessary to keep up service levels, Miller said, and over the next few months he plans to meet with various stakeholders – city officials, department brass and rank-and-file employees – to see where everyone stands.
“It won’t be easy,” Miller said. “We have a lot of questions we need to answer before we move forward with a plan, but something will have to give, obviously.”
Without getting into too much detail, Miller said he has a number of efficiency-related initiatives he picked up from his three years in private-sector facilities management that he would like to apply here. That know-how is one of the pre-eminent reasons for his hire, O’Reilly said.
“He has a good understanding of how to maintain that high standard (of service) within the economic reality that all cities face today,” O’Reilly said.
Miller began his career as a firefighter in Dearborn in 1982, rising through the ranks as fire inspector in 1992, fire lieutenant in 1998, fire captain in 2002 and senior battalion chief in 2004.
Upon his retirement in 2007, he became operations manager for K & S Services in Southgate, where he managed 19 electronic repair technicians, directed the shipping and receiving department and supervised safety and building maintenance.
Last year, he joined real estate investment trust RAMCO Gershenson in Farmington Hills as an operations manager. There he directed and reorganized the corporate maintenance division by analyzing logistical changes that increase profits and reduce costs, and initiated new revenue programs, city officials said.
The City Council last week approve Miller’s hiring.