One month into his new role as chief of the , Joseph Murray is all settled in–and ready to stick around for a few decades.
Originally from Chicago and hired as a Dearborn firefighter in 2004, Murray has quickly risen through the ranks, and has had his eye on being a fire chief from the start.
“I’ve always been trying to get into leadership roles,” he says. “I knew that’s eventually where I wanted to be, and I’ve taken a lot of courses to get prepared for that.”
Murray’s education includes a doctorate in Public Policy and Administration from Walden University (2011), and three degrees from Madonna University: a Bachelor of Science in fire science/occupational safety and health (2003), a Master’s in Business Administration (2005) and a Bachelor’s in Nursing (2007).
In addition, Murray graduated from Eastern Michigan University’s School of Fire Staff and Command and is a State of Michigan certified Paramedic, Fire Officer I and II, Fire Instructor, EMS Instructor and Fire Inspector.
But beyond his resolve to be a leader and extensive credentials, Murray’s passion for the Dearborn community and its distinctive issues is clear.
Murray received his Ph.D in 2011 in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University, focusing his research on perceptions of specific barriers that impede recruitment of Arab Americans into the fire service.
“I wanted to do a local topic because my interest is in local service,” Murray says. “I wanted to find out, ‘Why aren’t there more Arab American firefighters?’”
What he found was that one of the biggest roadblocks was simply exposure to the job. As such, he said he hopes to continue and expand the department’s cadet program, which recruits and trains young Dearborn residents in the hope that they one day will be sworn in as firefighters.
But first, Murray said one of his primary goals as fire chief is to meet with chiefs of neighboring cities to discuss how they can work together, both informally and by exploring mutual service agreements.
“We don’t want to negatively impact Dearborn,” he cautions about sharing services, but added that joining together for training and bulk ordering of supplies, for example, could help cut costs.
And make money–although Murray notes that police and fire service will always need funding.
“I’m exploring every avenue where we can generate revenue,” he says. “I think that’s really the big challenge. There’s really not money to be made.”
But Murray said that when it comes down to it, he’s committed to doing what it takes to keep the department top-notch–one other cities look to with envy.
“We’re leaders in the area,” he says. “A lot of departments look to us (because) operationally, we are really well suited. The challenge is maintaining it.”
Murray knows this is a job easier done with a chief who will be in place for years to come.
“I’ve done a lot in the past 10 years,” Murray admits. “Knowing that I’m going to be here 15-20 years, I get to look at the long-term.”
First on that list is buying a house in and moving to Dearborn, something he said his wife is “really excited about.”
And he is, too.
“I was working for the fire department and worked in residential services, so I was basically in the community all day,” he explains. “I really fell in love with the community here and the diversity. It kind of reminded me of home.”