Orlando Union Not Sold on New Chief

ORLANDO, Fla. --


The city of Orlando has a new fire chief. The city just promoted John Miller to the job. He's taking over for James Reynolds, who's stepping down for health reasons, but union leaders told Eyewitness News Miller may not be the right man for the job.

The Orlando Firefighters' Union says Miller's greatest hurdle is going to be gaining its confidence, all because Miller stepped down from a leadership position last year during what the Union calls the department's darkest hour.

Assistant Fire Chief John Miller jumped one rank Monday and was named Orlando's 18th fire chief by Mayor Buddy Dyer.

“I am confident that, under his strong and capable leadership, the Orlando fire department will continue to be one of the best in the nation,” Dyer said.

But the union that represents the city's 500 firefighters doesn't share that confidence, all because last year, when the city was faced with a possible whopping 46 layoffs because of a 12-percent budget cut, the union says Miller couldn't take the heat.

Miller stepped down from his second-tier leadership position as deputy chief and went back to his assistant chief position. Union President Steve Clelland says Miller didn't face the fire with everyone else at the top.

“You can't stop in the middle of a fire because things are tough,” Clelland said. “We've gone through yelling and screaming matches. We've gone through tough times, late night meetings at city hall. He's not been a part of that.”

Eyewitness News asked Miller about his stepping down nine months ago during the department's tough economic times. He said his family was having tough times, too, but now it's all behind him and he's ready to lead.

“They resolved very quickly and it really was a non-issue,” he said.

But not to his firefighters. If the department loses out on a federal grant this year, the 46 firefighters who almost lost their jobs last year could lose them this year.

Fire chief Miller has been with the Orlando Fire Department for 22 years.

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