City appoints new fire chief

New Taylor Fire Chief Steve Portis

New Taylor Fire Chief Steve Portis

TAYLOR – Steve Portis, a 20-year veteran of the Fire Department, has been appointed chief of the 60-member unit.

One of five candidates for the position, he was appointed chief by Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand. Portis was confirmed Tuesday night by the City Council and sworn in by City Clerk Mary Ann Rilley.

Portis succeeds Vince Fedel, who retired Wednesday as chief and was honored with a plaque from the city’s elected officials.

At age 40, Portis is the youngest fire chief in city history. Fedel was 41 when he was appointed chief more than four years ago.

“I think Steve was the best fit to maintain a healthy line of communication between the administration and the Fire Department,” Lamarand said. “Everybody – including other candidates – has acknowledged Steve’s ability to lead. I believe Steve was the best person to help me work through the financial challenges the city is facing and still maintain the highest quality fire and (emergency medical service) response.”

The mayor noted that Portis’s annual salary is $10,000 less than Fedel’s. The new chief’s fringe benefit package has been reduced, and he will be working without a deputy chief. Deputy Ed Sierota has exercised his right to return to the ranks of the department, and his former administrative position will not be filled.

With the city facing the challenge of reducing the budget by an estimated $10 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year that begins July 1, all of the mayor’s new department head appointees are working for less than their predecessors – and further concessions are anticipated.

Portis called the appointment “an honor” and said he is ready for the challenges that come with the position.

“I think there are a lot of challenges ahead,” Portis said. “I want to be able to provide great service to the citizens, but as chief at this time I also want to be a leader in the department. It’s an honor to lead the men and women we have in the Fire Department right now. We have a great bunch of people, and the city is lucky to have them. It is an honor to serve the citizens of Taylor as well.”

Portis, a Taylor native, is married to wife Tracy and is the father of daughter Madisyn.

He said he wanted to be a firefighter since he was a child because of the excitement that came with the job. He joined the department 20 years ago as a part-time auxiliary firefighter. Six years later, when the city expanded service to provide full-time advanced life support, Portis and many others became full-time firefighters.

Portis has been a fire medic, a sergeant and a lieutenant prior to his promotion to captain in 1999. As captain, he was in charge of interior command at Fire Station 3 on Eureka Road and responded to fires and medical emergencies. Many of the firefighters’ runs at that station are to senior housing centers the Commons at the Villages of Taylor, American House and Maplewood.

Portis graduated from fire academy and was an emergency medical technician when he was hired into the department. Firefighter training is continuous, and most recently he graduated from the Eastern Michigan University School of Fire Staff and Command.

Portis has been a trustee in the Taylor Professional Firefighters Union since becoming a full-time firefighter and served as vice president for five years. He said serving as a union officer allowed him to be involved in reviewing budgets, negotiations and discipline – all aspects he will use as chief.

Portis said helping the mayor reduce the budget deficit while maintaining high-quality personnel to respond to fire and rescue runs will be his top priorities.

“From the elected officials to the Fire Department to the Police Department and all city employees, our main boss is the citizens,” Portis said. “I want to maintain the quality of service to our citizens. My goal is to have the best Fire Department the city can have.”