Teresa Robinson, hired by Ferndale to be its new fire chief, began her job Feb. 1. She previously worked at the Lansing Fire Department for the past 24 years.

Teresa Robinson, hired by Ferndale to be its new fire chief, began her job Feb. 1. She previously worked at the Lansing Fire Department for the past 24 years.

Photo provided by the city of Ferndale

Ferndale’s new fire chief prioritizes community input, hiring more firefighters

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 10, 2021


FERNDALE — After a three-month hiring process, the city of Ferndale has brought in a new chief for its Fire Department.

On Jan. 25, Teresa Robinson was announced as the new fire chief of the Ferndale Fire Department, and Robinson officially was introduced in her new role at a City Council meeting held that same night. Robinson is the first woman to serve as chief of the Ferndale Fire Department. She replaced the former chief, Jack Pesha, who resigned in November to become the fire marshal for the city of Birmingham.

Robinson is a 24-year veteran of the Lansing Fire Department, where she started as a firefighter and emergency medical technician. She went on to serve as a paramedic, fire instructor and training chief before being hired as assistant fire chief, a position that Robinson held for the last two years.

Robinson’s 25th anniversary was going to be in December 2021, and she would’ve been eligible to retire. She said she was going to retire, but she also had a growing interest in becoming a fire chief, as she wanted to “try to make a positive impact” and take on leadership in another department.

“The position for Ferndale came up and I read the job posting, and it really caught my attention because it talks so much about inclusion, community engagement, the various constituencies, and that’s stuff I’m very passionate about,” she said. “It just really attracted me and had me excited about considering retiring early from Lansing and pursuing this endeavor.”

In the time she took to visit the Ferndale community, Robinson said she fell in love with the area. She also is a native of Oakland County, as she was born at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

“The more I just learned about that Fire Department and that area, the more excited I was about the opportunity,” she said. “So I applied, navigated through the process and came off successful. … I think it’s a great community, it’s a great department with a lot of really good stuff going on, and all the community engagement and inclusiveness and everything else they have down there I think are just a wonderful thing to be a part of.”

The city of Ferndale whittled a candidate list of 30 applicants down to a final three before selecting Robinson. City Manager Joe Gacioch said she stood out among the other applicants and that she was the only candidate with a doctorate, and that her demeanor and leadership came through during the interview process.

With more than two decades of experience that included vertical growth and promotion opportunities, Gacioch said that showed Robinson’s commitment to professional development, which is something Ferndale wants to be committed to as well.

“We don’t just want people to come in and have a career,” he said. “We want you to grow, and the fact that she has a track record of not just a quality of service and promotions, but also self-fulfillment through professional development is exactly what we look for.”

Gacioch said Robinson also “clearly demonstrated” the fire department industry as a whole has a recruitment challenge, and that she had some ideas about how she would pursue improving recruitment within Ferndale.

Robinson, who started on Feb. 1, said while the men and women in the Ferndale Fire Department are doing a phenomenal job, they need to get them more help.

“I’d love to get some of the vacancies filled to take some of the pressure off them and staff ourselves up, and that is the issue that fire departments all across (the country) face,” she said, “you know, trying to find qualified candidates when they’re hiring. ... That’s gonna be a priority walking through the door.”

The other approach Robinson wants to take as she starts is to pause and learn from those already working in the department and community and take an inventory of where everyone is at. She stated she does not want to walk through the door and try to apply any changes before she truly understands the needs.

“Do I have a specific plan right now? No, because I think it would be irresponsible to, before walking through the door. My desire is once I walk through the door, to really learn and take that pause to learn from the inside about the department and the community, and then work to develop the plan moving forward,” she said.