Butler named Howard County fire chief

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John Butler named Howard County Fire Chief

John Butler has held every rank within the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services and as of Jan. 20, he'll hold the department's top spot.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman named Butler chief of the county fire and rescue services Tuesday, nearly two months after he was named acting chief following Bill Goddard's resignation.

Kittleman made the announcement at the Long Reach Fire Station — the first station Butler visited as a teenager moving from Cincinnati to Columbia and the last station he was assigned to before moving into administration headquarters. About 100 people attended the ceremony, including county officials and state fire marshal representatives.

In his remarks, Kittleman praised Butler's compassion and empathy over the last month as the department mourned the losses of Capt. Erik Steciak and firefighter Nick Garner.

Steciak was killed Jan. 6 when he was struck by a utility vehicle when responding to a call and Garner died Jan. 20 after a battle with cancer.

Kittleman said he was approached by many people about being fire chief once he assumed office, but Butler stood out because of his lifetime of service, both in the fire department and the military.

He added that he knew Butler was the right choice after seeing his actions over the last month.

"I wanted to have someone as fire chief who is compassionate, who has experience," Kittleman said. "I love the fact that he has come up from the ranks over 22 years. He has the respect of both the volunteers and the career [personnel]."

Butler, a member of the fire department since 1993 and former U.S. Marine, served as Deputy Fire Chief before he was named acting chief Dec. 2.

As chief, he pledged to strengthen the collaboration between career and volunteer personnel, referring to the department as "one team, one family."

Butler said he wants to continue the department's culture of innovation, which he believes has been a hallmark of emergency medical services, special operations, and other groups.

"Our continued culture of innovation is critical to adapting to external changes," he said.

Butler also said he'll look to provide opportunities for growth in battalions and he pledged to find ways of efficiently managing the department's financial and human resources.

Butler, who lives in Ellicott City, is a graduate of Oakland Mills High School and holds degrees from the University of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.

Before starting his comments Tuesday, Butler asked those in attendance to take a moment of silence for Garner, who died early that morning.

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