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Hanover Names Next Fire Chief

Martin W. McMillan (Courtesy Rochester Fire Department)

Martin W. McMillan (Courtesy Rochester Fire Department)

Hanover — A deputy fire chief for the city of Rochester, N.Y., will fill the vacancy created by last fall’s retirement of Roger Bradley, the town’s longtime fire chief.

Martin McMillan will take the helm in Hanover on May 5.

McMillan, 57, was selected from a field of nearly 60 candidates during a nationwide search that launched last November.

“It felt right, that’s all I can say,” McMillan said in an interview Monday, noting he tried to follow his instincts the same way he does when fighting fires.

Town Manager Julia Griffin said McMillan was a search panel’s “hands-down first choice” because of his knowledge, experience, personality and articulate nature.

“Most importantly, we just really enjoyed spending time with him,” she said. “He’s bright and outgoing, he’s very personable.”

While both sides expressed excitement at the new appointment, it almost never came to be. Shortly after McMillan first applied for the Hanover position last November, he broke all of his vertebrae when his car was struck by a pickup truck that allegedly was fleeing police.

“I didn’t even know if I was even going to get up,” McMillan said.

McMillan suffered a list of other injuries, including broken ribs and a ruptured spleen. His wife called a representative of the Hanover panel from the hospital’s intensive care unit to let them know he had to withdraw from consideration.

While McMillan still suffers from back pain, he otherwise made a full recovery — “I had been labeled kind of a miracle kid,” he said — and passed what he called “stringent” requirements to be readmitted to service in Rochester.

After the Hanover panel, which had partnered with a recruiting firm, hosted a round of interviews with four people in January, Griffin said members wanted to meet more candidates.

Recruiters checked to see if McMillan, who had returned to work, would still be interested, and he was among six people who were called back for the next round of interviews.

McMillan will end his service in Rochester on April 29, which is also the 29th anniversary of his joining the department. In Rochester, he helps to manage a department of more than 500 firefighters, but having grown up in a small town with an all-volunteer force, he said he understands the dynamics of departments such as Hanover’s, which has fewer than 25 employees.

He will earn $105,000 annually in the role. His wife and son will remain in New York until his son graduates high school in 2015. The family enjoys the outdoors and during a recent summer rented a townhouse on Grantham’s Eastman Pond, “and just kind of fell in love with the area,” McMillan said.

McMillan said his first order of business as chief will be to “listen ... and absorb,” noting he’s looking forward to meeting and connecting with the rest of the department as well as emergency personnel in the region.

“I’m a team builder, I love this whole concept of team,” he said.

Griffin said she was particularly interested in finding a chief who could “collaborate regionally,” including in emergency management, equipment procurement and some kinds of staffing.

The panel also hoped to find somebody with experience working with college students and administrations, which McMillan has done with the University of Rochester and about a half-dozen other schools in the immediate Rochester area.

The town’s police chief, Nick Giaccone, also retired from a four-decade career last fall following a stroke that left him without fine motor skills in one hand.

Griffin said she hopes to announce a new police chief within the next two weeks, but she’s working not to rush the process and hopes that each of the candidates from a short-list will be able to spend some time in town.

“This is a big change for both departments, and there’s a lot of anxiety and anticipation that comes with great change,” Griffin said. “None of the folks in fire and only a couple of the folks in police have ever known another chief, so this is a big change, so I want to make sure we do it thoughtfully and that we get the right person for the department and for the community.”

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.