New chief settling into Austin

Published 7:03 am Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monday marked Day One for Michael “Mickey” Healey at the Austin Fire Department — and he hopes there are many more to come.

Healey, 37, started his career as the city’s new fire chief by meeting many new faces, both at the station and around town. Working on acclimating himself to his new community and new staff, Healey said he’s looking forward to what’s to come.

“We have a lot of goals to meet, and I’m excited for the challenge,” he said of the AFD.

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Among those goals are efforts to increase training opportunities at the station and to get part-time firefighters more involved.

But while he works toward those goals, Healey will also be tasked with more mundane things, such as remembering peoples’ names, as well as learning the ins-and-outs at the station. However, the new chief said he expects to be a quick learner.

“I will orient myself to the department fairly quickly,” Healey said.

Helping with that process, Healey noted, have been all the firefighters at the station, who he said have been very welcoming.

“These guys have been outstanding,” Healey said. “They’re doing whatever they can to make me feel at home.”

However, the new chief said he knows his staff might take more time to acclimate to a new leader then he’ll take in acclimating to them. Because of that, Healey said he will be patient and very forthright.

“I hold an open-door policy,” he added.

Healey also likened himself to a coach, saying that his job is to work with firefighters and help them succeed, rather than simply bossing them around.

The coach is settling in — Healey and his family have found a home in town, and he said his four children are looking forward to attending new schools in the fall.

However, the new chief will have some adjustments to make. He said when he worked for the Portage, Mich., Fire Department, he lived out in the country. Now, he has a subdivision.

“Neighbors will be a new thing,” Healey said jokingly.

He also hasn’t checked out famous Austin landmarks, like the SPAM Museum, quite yet. But as Healey pointed out, there should be plenty of time for that.

“We’ve only been here 48 hours,” the new chief said.