Vail Daily column: It’s been a heckuva great ride | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: It’s been a heckuva great ride

Mark Miller
Behind the Badge

It's been a heckuva of a great ride, really, but it is time for me to go. And, as I have learned in life, you have to make course adjustments if you are to remain true to your leadership journey.

Well, the time has come to do just that — make a course adjustment. I'm leaving the position of fire chief for Vail Fire and Emergency Services on Friday to take the fire chief position with Loveland Fire and Rescue Authority.

A primary motive for my decision to move is the woman I love (who also happens to be my wife). We have lived apart long enough, and we are both looking forward to being under one roof. Rumor has it, that's what married couples are supposed to do. It's time for us to shack up. Secondary to my desire to be with my wife, is the truly rare opportunity to go back and lead a fire department where I spent most of my career. I'm leaving an incredible organization and going to another incredible organization. How cool is that? This is unique, surreal actually. I feel like I have discovered fire, and I'm absolutely thrilled to be so blessed. I certainly don't deserve it.

I love this place, as I have said about a million times since I have arrived in 2008. Heck, I'm even getting pretty good (nearing NASCAR semi-pro status) at navigating the ever treacherous Interstate 70 commute. I have finally come to the conclusion that the reason folks drive so fast is that they are trying to get to the jobs they love so much, and just want to be the first one in the door. I can relate. That's certainly my reason for risking my life every day.

As with many times in our journey, changing directions can be filled with a certain melancholy and sense of loss, and this is certainly the case for me. I have worked here for nearly seven years, and by most standards around here, I'm still considered a newcomer. But for me it has been a time of enjoyment beyond my expectations. It has gone by so quickly, and true to the old adage that "the days are long, but the years are short." I will miss working in this place … beyond measure.

Yes, it has been one heck of a good ride. Truly, I have it enjoyed it immensely. Thank you to my incredible staff/firefighters — you are all simply the best, and I will miss you sorely. Thank you to current and past Vail council members for believing in our mission and investing in your fire department. Thanks to your support, we have two new/newly renovated fire stations, a fleet of excellent fire apparatus and a professional, top shelf organization that any town would be proud to employ. In the last seven years, we have become stronger, smarter and faster. Stronger, due to our resolve, fitness and infrastructure. Stronger also in our position within the town of Vail organization and throughout Colorado. Smarter due to our emotional intelligence, academics, command and control operations and intentional leadership. Faster due to our overall response times, state of the art equipment, technical rescue capabilities and decision-making skills. Vail is a safer community due to the sum of all of the above. You can be proud — we certainly are.

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I would like to acknowledge my boss, the town manager, for putting up with my persistent and perhaps even annoying requests for more staff, equipment and funds in my desire to take us from an average fire department to an excellent, enduring, ethical organization. Thanks, Boss. We are well on the way. Thank you to all my peers and every single town of Vail employee. You are rock stars, and I have been so blessed to work with and learn from you all.

My wife and I plan to join the ranks of second-home owners in the valley and will keep our home in Edwards. I will probably ski more now that I will be living on the Front Range than I did while living right here — funny how life works that way.

I have been telling my staff that the next fire chief of this organization will probably be smarter, more competent, taller, faster, younger and maybe even better looking (although I know many will find that hard to believe). I have been successful because I have surrounded myself with people smarter than me. I highly recommend it — they make you look good.

With that said, I'm outta here, but will see you on the slopes, or in the backcountry or at one of about 100 of our favorite restaurants. We plan to retire here, so save me a parking space. Love you all. Elvis has left the building.

Thank you for the honor of being Vail's fire chief.

Happy trails.

Mark Miller was Vail's fire chief and is the new chief of the Loveland Fire and Rescue Authority.

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