OCOEE — A man with 30 years of experience and leadership as a Florida firefighter will officially assume command of the Ocoee Fire Department on March 23.
Ocoee City Manager Robert Frank appointed John Miller, Orlando’s fire chief since 2010, as Ocoee’s new fire chief.
Before Miller, 52, joined the Orlando Fire Department, he was a fire lieutenant with the city of Newberry in the Gainesville area and then worked at the Kissimmee Fire Department.
“My wife — we’ve been together 36 years — talked me into it,” Miller said. “I stopped going to college and went to fire school. I have risen through the ranks of the organization all the way to fire chief. The only reason I’m leaving Orlando is because I’m retirement eligible. Ocoee is a great opportunity to help it grow and develop. It just seemed like a great challenge for me. I have at least 10 good years left in me.”
In his responsibilities as Orlando fire chief, Miller oversees around 600 people, he said, with chief officers allowing him to advance as they witnessed his ability, dedication and pride.
“I want to take my experience and skills of the past 30 years and help them be a better organization,” he said. “I think they have a great organization, otherwise I wouldn’t have signed on. The interim chief now, Tim Hoover, has been with the department 20 years, and he’s going to be my deputy chief. I’m excited to have a guy who’s been there so long and can run the department and knows it. I have great relationships with Winter Garden and Apopka fire departments, too. They’re agencies adjoining Ocoee. Having built those relationships over the years will help smooth that transition.”
Miller is the replacement for Pete McNeil, Ocoee’s fire chief from 2009 to January 2014. Ocoee will pay Miller $112,500 per year to oversee 55 full-time firefighters at four stations.
“Between all of those stations, working in a smaller one in Newberry and then medium in Kissimmee and metro-size in Orlando has exposed me to all sorts of sizes,” he said. “Now I’m going back to medium with Ocoee.”
Miller said he wanted to continue the department’s mission of being caring and professional to the citizens of Ocoee.
“I think they do a great job of that,” he said. “I’ll try to get the whole force trained in hands-only CPR, as well as citizens. It takes four to six minutes for us to get there, so citizens can save a life if they know it.”
Miller might also look at grants to retain firefighters, such as the $15 million in grants he was able to procure for Orlando Fire Department.
“Four years ago, we started a fire transport program, which was not too popular at first, but now it is creating $6 million of revenue to Orlando,” Miller said. “The men and women really took pride in it, and I like to think we’re one of the best at that service. We reclaimed our ISO-1 status, as well as international accreditation.”
A motto Miller likes to work by is treating everyone as if it were his grandmother or parent, he said.
“It’s about leading by example,” he said. “I think people will see I’ve walked this walk my whole career, and most importantly, that will show to the citizens of Ocoee as we work with them to continue improving the community.”
Miller is the east central regional director of the Florida Fire Chiefs Association; vice president for the Central Florida Fire Chiefs Association; chairman of the Fire Science Institute Advisory Board with Valencia College; and the previous president of the Central Florida Fire Academy.