New Austin fire chief prepares for first day on the job

Published 7:26 am Friday, July 9, 2010

Monday is a big day for Michael “Mickey” Healey.

Austin’s new fire chief will take on Day One of his job, starting what he hopes will be a long career in the city.

The 36-year-old firefighter is coming from Portage, Mich., where he spent the last 17 years working for that town’s fire department. Healey has said previously that he is looking forward to the new role.

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“I’m excited about the possibility of working in the city of Austin,” he noted during his interview last month.

For Healey, working as a firefighter runs in the family — he said he is a fourth generation firefighter, and already two of his young children have expressed an interest to follow in dad’s footsteps.

“(Fire fighting) has pretty much flowed through my family,” Healey said.

The Michigan firefighter said he loves his job because it offers him so many different opportunities day-to-day, from responding to calls to training younger firefighters to interacting with the public.

“It has so many different variables,” Healey said of the job.

Healey also said he could see himself doing that job in Austin for a long time, noting that he was very impressed with the community when he first came to visit.

“There was a family feeling that I had,” he said.

Healey also seems to have the support of the Austin Fire Department — local firefighters’ union president Chris Grunewald said that he and other firefighters were impressed with the new chief and also excited for the opportunity to get some outside perspective.

“I think getting some new blood in the department is a good thing,” Grunewald said.

Healey is replacing Dan Wilson, who retired in December after an investigation into allegations that he created a hostile workplace. Though the investigation was dropped and no charges ever filed, that incident, along with a protracted contract dispute, made for a tumultuous 2009 at the station.

The new chief has said on several occasions that he is ready to jump right in at the AFD. To address any lingering issues, Healey said he’d have an “open-door” policy and would aim to foster a sense of respect between all Austin firefighters.

“What I do see is a department looking to progress,” he said during a previous interview. “There is a lot of pride in the department.”