By Jim Newell
After six-and-a-half months and an extensive search, Orion Township has a new fire chief.
The Orion Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved hiring Robert Duke as the new fire chief at its Feb. 20 meeting.
Duke’s tentative start date is April 1, pending contract negotiations with the township.
“I’m extremely humbled and honored to be selected as your next fire chief,” Duke said at the meeting. “I’m even more humbled to see the outpouring of support from the fire department. That means a lot to me, I appreciate it, especially since you don’t know me and I don’t know you, yet. So, I appreciate it. Thank you.”
There were 30 applicants for the position, which was then narrowed down to 11. On Feb. 17, McGrath consultants and members from the township board interviewed four finalists at the township hall during an eight-hour written and verbal assessment
“We stayed about an hour after everybody went home and it was an unanimous decision that we move forward with Rob,” said Township Supervisor Chris Barnett.
The search cost the township up to $16,000, paid for from the Contractual Help budget. Board members said they decided to go with McGrath Human Solutions because the company has experience with public safety employee searches.
Former Fire Chief Bob Smith retired on August 2, 2017. Since that time, Fire Training Coordinator John Pender, Fire Training Coordinator has been serving as the interim fire chief.
The township wanted an “open and transparent process” to select the “person who will likely lead the department for the next decade or so,” Barnett said.
Duke comes from the City of Sterling Heights where he was assistant chief. He has been with Sterling Heights since 1995 and rose through the ranks of the Sterling Heights Fire Department from firefighter/paramedic, captain/training officer and training chief before being placed as assistant chief, according to information from the Orion Township Fire Department.
Duke holds a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing from Wayne State University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Walden University and is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer program at the National Fire Academy.
Duke is the Fire Department’s administrative liaison and member of the Macomb County HazMat and Technical Rescue Teams, and the State US&R Team (MI-TF1).
“Our department came out in large numbers to welcome his appointment by Supervisor Barnett. Each and every member of our department is excited for the future and the knowledge, training, and experience Chief Duke will bring,” said an OTFD spokesperson.