July 16, 2014 - BY LAURA DUCHARME
New Springfield Township Fire Department Chief Tom Graham and Captain Strickland. Photo by Luara DuCharme (click for larger version)
Special to the Clarkston News
Leaving your co-workers after working many years together can be difficult, but Tom Graham, the new fire chief of Springfield Township, had an easier transition than he thought he would.
"Of course it's bittersweet," said Graham. "But they adopted me here."
Graham was the fire chief of Redford Township. He worked his way up in the ranks, including in western Wayne County, going from a firefighter to becoming a fire chief in 2012.
Differences between Springfield and Redford have been noticed, but they have been positive.
"Sure, there have been differences," said Graham, laughing. "But in the end they're all firefighters. Everyone here has been very inviting. There is more of a hometown feel here."
Graham went on to say how he normally doesn't like dealing with the local politicians while on the job, but it has not been a problem here.
With this position, it seems like Graham must be constantly stressed, but it has been the exact opposite.
"My staff makes my job easy," said Graham. "But I am a worrier. I worry about my guys and their safety."
When he does get stressed, he said his kids are an instant stress relief, as well as his sense of humor. He is always smiling and laughing with his firehouse family, including his corporate team of Captain Strickland, Captain Apple, Lieutenant Kellner and Lieutenant Heart. Graham has yet to experience stress here in Springfield, and the other workers are a big part of it.
"One of the reasons I was hired was to build on the foundation laid by Chief Oaks," said Graham. "The staff here is itching to do that. This isn't all my vision, but our collective vision."
Working together has helped him form a bond quickly with the other workers. One change that did recently take place was changing the mission statement from a few paragraphs to a simple phrase: "Where we go one, we go all. Our family protecting your family."
"This shows what we're about," Graham explained. "If one person goes into a burning building, we're all going in. We're here to protect everyone."
According to Graham, being a good firefighter comes down to compassion – if you have compassion in your heart it drives you to want to help people. Graham has had this compassion for as long as he can remember. Since he was little, he wanted to be a firefighter, and now Graham is living his childhood dream. His two sons are both taking after him in becoming firefighters, as well.
It seems like Springfield Township is in safe hands with Chief Graham on board.
"I'm happy to be here," said Graham. "Everyone has made me feel welcome. I'm going to do the best job I can."