Cleveland Heights Fire Lt. William “Dave” Freeman will be sworn in as the new chief near the end of August.
The 46-year-old will then lead a team of 69 firefighters and other staff members who comprise the .
But you can't call him new.
Freeman has been with the Cleveland Heights department for about 20 years and has served as a lieutenant for seven.
Acting City Manager Susanna Niermann O’Neil announced that Freeman would be the .
Four Cleveland Heights lieutenants took the civil service test to be considered for the new role, and Freeman was the top candidate, O’Neil said. Six fire chiefs from the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association testing agency recommended him for the position, as did current Cleveland Heights Fire Chief Kevin Mohr, who has been in the department since 1976 and will retire in August.
Freeman, who has also served as the paramedic coordinator for five years, was asked if he thought during the course of his career that he’d be chief one day.
“Yes, I’m not going to sugar coat it. I’m not going to say chief but I always aspire to the next position. I always have,” Freeman said. “One thing I always tell my new guys is always act like you’re going to be in that next position … if you’re a fireman, you have to act like you’re going to be a lieutenant someday.”
Freeman, who lives in Amherst and has four sons ages 11 to 18, said it’s difficult to say now what his exact plans are for the department. He starts training with Mohr in July.
“The biggest thing for me right now is to kind of integrate myself, and I really want to open some relationships with city management and council,” Freeman said, adding that he wants to meet with chiefs in nearby communities. “Our current chief, Chief Mohr, is very connected with other chiefs in the area, and I want to continue that because I think it’s very important.”
In regards to regionalism, he mentioned that Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and University Heights share a common dispatch now, but more opportunities are “always on the horizon.”
O’Neil said that the city is considering launching a program similar to “” in the fire department.
“After Lt. Freeman is sworn in … we want to talk about ways we can duplicate (Meet Your Police) so our residents, on a regular basis, can interact with our fire personnel,” she said.
For now, Freeman is going to work on transitioning into his new management role, just as he did seven years ago when he became a lieutenant.
“Here you’ve worked with (the firefighters) exclusively (in) 24-hour shifts for years, so now you instantly go, in one day, from being best friends with them to being their boss. And it’s a very, I won't say a tough transition, but it takes some getting used to.”