By Scott Bolthouse
Huron Township Police Chief Everette Robbins, who was first appointed to the position in May 2014, was named the township’s new director of public safety during the July 27 Board of Trustees meeting.
The new position, which Supervisor David Glaab says has been in the the works now for a few years, makes Robbins responsible for the overall management of the the township’s public safety, including both the police and fire departments, animal control, emergency dispatch operations and personnel.
“This is a model that I had been exploring for some time now — since the beginning of my term,” Glaab said.
Glaab said that he had been in talks with former Police Chief Scott Carey about implementing the public safety director position in the township, but Carey’s unfortunate death in January 2014 caused the discussion to come to a halt.
And now that Robbins has become comfortable in his role as police chief, Glaab said the time is right to begin the process of merging and operating both fire and police under one department.
“The idea is to have better overall management of both police and fire, and put them all under one umbrella,” said Glaab.
According to Glaab, before Robbins took command of the police force, both departments were in bad positions financially.
In fact, the fire department has been bleeding red for years, Glaab said, but he hopes improvements to the budget lay on the horizon.
Since taking over command of the police department, Robbins has made improvements financially, as well as a boost to the overall moral of its employees, Glaab said.
“Fortunately, Everette has demonstrated real good leadership skills.”
When asked what the biggest benefit operating both departments under one entity will have for the residents of Huron Township, Glaab said: “Often times our police department is first on the scene when there is an emergency. Maybe with some cross training, officers can assist emergency personnel on the fire side. By bringing the two departments close together, it will benefit our residents.”
When Robbins was appointed Director of Public Safety during last week’s board meeting, the decision among the board was unanimous.
Trustee Donna Mendrysa, a mother of a firefighter, said that it’s no secret that the fire department is currently understaffed, and hopes that when Robbins takes over its operations, the residents will see improvements in multiple ways.
“What you will have is Everette overseeing both departments, including the planning, organization, and personnel budgeting,” she said.
“He improved low moral in the police department, became hands on and became one of them, and he respects them and they respect him; what he’s done in two years is amazing.”
Trustee RP Lilly is certain that Robbins will be able to jump right in and get things turned around in the fire department.
“I am confident it won’t take him long to hit the ground running,” he said.
Lilly called Robbins a “true leader,” and said that the Huron Township Police Department is now known as one of the premier departments in downriver.
On his new role in the township, Robbins said that he is honored and humbled being appointed to the position, and his message for residents is that safety is his top priority.
“My biggest goal is making sure the residents are safe, educated and informed,” he said. “An informed community is our best partner.”
Robbins understands the importance of the fire department’s roll in the community, and wants the current employees to know how he values them.
“I want the residents to know that the fire department is very important and has great employees,” he said.
“I plan to evaluate both departments as a public safety entity, top to bottom, and talk to the employees about how we can make it better for everybody.”
Robbins said current Fire Chief Ed Gillman, who will be retiring soon on his own terms, has done an extremely good job under some difficult circumstances.
“I want to make it very clear that we appreciate the work that he has done.”
The department is currently searching for a new fire chief, who will work directly under Robbins, but will manage the core of the fire department’s operations.
One change residents will see soon is the switching of the police department’s Facebook page to a general, public safety-oriented page.
“We look forward to putting more fire department information and stats out there, and I encourage people to visit our Facebook page and our Nixle site for more information.”
“It is very exciting working and living in a community that is so focused on its public safety, we get a lot of support from the community, and it is exciting thinking about what we can do moving forward.”
When asked what his proudest moment has been working as police chief in the community, Robbins said that it happened last year, when he had the opportunity to ride-along with Alec Antonian, 19, a cancer patient who has been valiantly battling the disease for most of his young life.
That day, Antonian was honored at Township Hall as an honorary police officer, had a badge pinned on him by Robbins, and got to ride in one of Huron PD’s cruisers and make a traffic stop.
“I am proud of the friendship I have built with Alec, and hope that one day I can get him into a fire truck,” he said.