GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Brad Brown, a 20-year veteran of the Grand Rapids Fire Department, is the new chief.

Brown replaces current chief John Lehman, who will retire at the end of the month.

“It’s really about keeping the positive momentum going,” said Brown. “My job in this new role and my executive staff’s job is to get out from behind out desk, get out in the field. Spend time with our folks. Listen to them. Figure out what they need, and then go get it.“

The man now wearing the chief’s badge spent plenty of years in the trenches, putting out fires and responding to other emergencies.

But along the way, he earned advanced college degrees, including a doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Development.

With new fire stations and expanded responsibilities for the 203-member department ahead, all of those skills will come in handy for the new fire boss.

“There’s a need for 14,000 housing units in the next few years. The river is in some sort of redevelopment phase,” said Brown. “And our emergency medical runs. We went on over 17,000 of those last year.”

That’s 68% of the GRFD’s total run volume in 2022.

Currently, the GRFD provides basic emergency medical care, with private ambulance company paramedics administering advanced life support measures and transporting patients to the emergency room.

This summer, the GRFD will begin going beyond the basics. Firefighters licensed as Emergency Medical Technicians will respond to medial calls.

“It’s just a little bit higher level of training. (They) can do more things in the field,” said Brown.

So will the GRFD eventually go into the ambulance business with paramedics on board?

Brown said the current Advanced Life Support system involving hospitals and private ambulance service is good. But with EMS calls making up the bulk of alarms, Brown said one of his tasks will be figuring out which way the department should go.

“Part of that is going to be me working with all of those agencies and figuring out what’s best for our citizens. How can they get the care they need in the quickest, most cost-effective way possible?” said Brown.

He’ll be officially sworn into office on May 1.