Hoquiam has a new fire chief, and by all accounts, it’s well-earned.
Aberdeen Fire Chief Tom Hubbard — who also held the title of Hoquiam’s interim fire chief since 2018, Hoquiam City Manager Brian Shay, and Hoquiam Police Chief Jeff Myers, all seem to feel Matt Miller’s promotion was well-deserved.
“Matt has earned the position through his exemplary career with the Hoquiam Fire Department and with his most recent work as the assistant fire chief,” Hubbard said in an email to The Daily World.
Miller was promoted to fire chief Monday night, May 9, at the Hoquiam City Council meeting. He recently served as Hoquiam’s assistant chief since Nov. 1, 2020. He’s been with the department since March 1999.
While Miller might be new to the position, he said Wednesday, May 11, that Hubbard helped him grow in the past 18 months and that Hubbard has prepared him well to take over the top fire job in Hoquiam.
“Recently, Chief Hubbard has been slowly spoon-feeding me all these extra duties he was doing, and giving me more of his duties,” said Miller, noting he’s been taking on more responsibilities in his time as assistant chief.
Not having Hubbard, whose retirement goes into effect June 10, will be a challenge. He’s been there for any questions Miller has had. Miller called Hubbard a mentor.
“It’s gonna be a little bit different not having him right there, however he said he’ll be just a phone call away,” Miller said.
Aberdeen Fire Department Assistant Chief Dave Golding, is also in Miller’s corner, and Miller sounded sure that Golding will be there for any other questions, or help, Miller might need in his new role. Miller further explained their working relationship.
“Dave and I worked together on training, response (and) operation,” Miller said. “He and I have worked really close together for the last three years.”
Miller, who has held every rank within the department, sounded sure of his abilities to do the job well, especially with how tight-knit the fire department works with the rest of Hoquiam.
“I think I can handle it,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. There’s gonna be some challenges, but luckily there’s a pretty good team, not just in the fire department of people willing and able to help me get through stuff, but the city as a whole.”
The respect for Miller appears to run throughout Hoquiam. Myers expressed his positive feelings about Miller’s promotion.
“Chief Miller has been a pleasure to work with over the years, as he served as assistant chief under the direction of Chief Tom Hubbard,” Myers said.
In Miller’s time as assistant chief, he described his work, which has spread into working more with the city and Grays Harbor County Emergency Management, in a unique way.
“Just spreading my wings as we go along,” Miller said. “I feel I’ve got a good base under me for where I’m at now. There are a lot of good people out there with a lot of help. I’m happy about that part.”
Part of Miller’s promotion is because of the hard work he has put forth to help AFD and HFD in their efforts to form a Regional Fire Authority, which would serve both Aberdeen and Hoquiam, and possibly other local areas.
Hubbard also complimented Miller’s work on the RFA.
“His efforts to move the Regional Fire Authority to a successful conclusion for the betterment of the citizens we serve has been tireless and done with integrity and professionalism,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard touted Miller’s “excellent” operational background in the delivery of emergency services and how it will help Hoquiam and the rest of Grays Harbor County.
Hubbard also said he’s enjoyed working with Miller.
“It has been my honor to work closely with Matt over the past several years as a fire service professional,” Hubbard said.
Shay said Miller has earned the HFD fire chief position.
“Matt Miller has done an excellent job with the roles and responsibilities of (assistant) chief and gained the necessary skills and abilities to take on the leadership position of fire chief,” Shay said.
Shay also explained why the timing was right to promote Miller.
“With the retirement of Chief Hubbard coming next month and the experience gained by Matt Miller as (assistant) chief over the past 18 months, the city of Hoquiam needed to ensure our department had the necessary leadership moving forward.”
Shay expects Miller to be a positive force for Hoquiam’s administrative team.
“The city of Hoquiam has a long history of teamwork among our different departments to achieve the goals set by the mayor and (city) council,” Shay said. “Matt is a great collaborator and is respected by employees in all departments.”
Shay also recalled how he’s seen Miller evolve in the 17 years they have worked together.
“I have watched him grow in his leadership roles from a firefighter, to captain, deputy chief, and now chief,” Shay said. “Matt is a dedicated employee with excellent character who cares deeply for our community.”
Miller, 48, isn’t just a Hoquiam firefighter. He was born in Hoquiam. He’s had the firefighting bug since he was 18. A few months before he graduated from Hoquiam High School, in 1992, he visited his cousin’s fire house. Thirty years later, he’s chief and he can’t wait to get started.
Miller’s wife, Cindy, is happy for him, too.
“She’s excited and happy for me,” Miller said. “She has supported me through my career as I’ve supported her through hers. We’re always supportive of each other and happy for each other when one of us gets some sort of promotion or accolade, or tries something new to better ourselves.”