Fire Chief Rudy Ruiz Retiring
Rudy Ruiz has a lot to reflect on during his last few weeks as Perrysburg’s fire chief. He is retiring this month after serving 31 years in the fire service. The last seven of those years have been for the City of Perrysburg.
“It’s time to turn to the next chapter of my life,” he said.
Ruiz started as a firefighter in 1991 for the city of Sandusky. He worked there for 22 years as a firefighter, paramedic and fire marshal. He moved up in the ranks thanks to his mentor, Paul Ricci, who was the fire chief in Sandusky at the time. Ricci saw bigger and better things for him.
“When I was a firefighter, it was the greatest job in the world and I was content with that,” Ruiz said. “But my enthusiasm wasn’t where it should be, so he encouraged me to be the lead paramedic on our shift. Since then, I haven’t stopped running.”
Soon after, Ruiz became an instructor and the next logical step for him was to become fire chief. He credits a second mentor, Mary Beth Michos, senior advisor for the International Association of Fire Chiefs, for helping him achieve that.
After completing the Executive Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy, a position opened up in Bedford Township, Michigan. Ruiz spent nearly two years there but wanted to come back to Ohio. That's when he learned that Perrysburg needed a deputy fire chief. He was hired in August of 2015. He eventually was promoted to chief two years later.
“Right away I started working on a strategic plan for fire services in the city,” he said.
His biggest accomplishment was moving forward with a plan to build a second fire station.
“We needed to improve response times,” he said. “Adding more personnel and building a second fire station serving the south end of the community accomplished that.”
But he adds that he wasn’t able to achieve it alone. He credits the collaboration between the firefighters, community, elected officials and city administration.
“We called it ‘our plan’ and I think that’s what made it so successful,” he said.
Ruiz was also instrumental in making changes to help the department become more efficient. Staffing changes were made, part-time positions were incorporated, and six firefighters were added.
“We are now working on accreditation,” he said. “The department is in good hands right now and I have all the confidence in those who are leading the effort.”
When asked what was the best part of his job as Perrysburg’s fire chief, Ruiz reflects back to his time in Sandusky where his mentor encouraged him to better himself.
“The best part of my job was watching certain individuals grow much like I did,” he said. “Helping them by providing the resources for them to grow not only as a firefighter but as a leader in serving the community of Perrysburg.”
Even though he wasn’t able to do everything here that he wanted, Ruiz believes that he is leaving the department better than it was when he first started and has prepared the organization for the future.
“I recently heard a quote that said, ‘if it’s not broken, you improve it,’” he said. That sums up my philosophy in Perrysburg. Even though it wasn’t broken, we did try to improve it. I made mistakes along the way but everyone does. I didn’t dwell on it, I learned from it.”
Ruiz also appreciates the communication he has had with the city council.
“I’ve heard stories in other communities about challenges in communicating with elected officials but I never experienced that here,” he said. “We didn’t always agree but we understood each other and worked together.”
While Ruiz is retiring from fire service, he isn’t ready to call it quits just yet.
“I’m excited about the next chapter of my career,” he said.
Ruiz has accepted a position as a program manager for Emergency Services Consulting International where he will be working as a consultant in creating strategic plans for police and fire stations across the United States and Canada.
“I still have a lot of life left in me and more to give,” he said. “I’m leaving Perrysburg in a good place and it’s time to turn a chapter in my life and move on to something else that I enjoy doing.”
Ruiz’s new career will allow him to work remotely with some travel 2-4 days a week. He lives in Perrysburg with his wife of 26 years, so he will still be in the area.
“Perrysburg will always hold a special place in my heart,” he said. “I‘m glad to have a part of Perrysburg history that has my name on it that I'm proud of and I’m looking forward to seeing the great things to come.”
Ruiz’s last day will be Monday, September 19. A search for his replacement is underway.