Nick Ruller announced his resignation as chief of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s fire and emergency services, saying he is always looking at what comes next in life.
“I’m more of a pioneer than a settler,” Ruller said in an interview on Tuesday.
“I am always kind of looking over the next hill, right? What opportunities exist and what challenges exist.”
Lord Mayor Betty Disero said Ruller’s departure is a “great loss for the town.”
“He’s been a great asset to the town over the years. He’s hardworking and thorough,” Disero said during an interview Tuesday.
“That’s a real tough one. You know, he’s got to do what’s good for him and his family and I get that. I wish him much success.”
Ruller, 41, is leaving NOTL to become a platoon chief with the City of Brampton, a move which offers several benefits, he said.
The first is letting him focus on the operational side of firefighting rather than administration.
“My passion for fire service has really stemmed from my background in operations and it just felt like a good fit,” he said.
“I’m less concerned about what the name is on my shirt and more concerned about working with a high performing team and a team that’s not just going to challenge but also support.”
“We’ve had that here in NOTL and we’ve built a real solid team here. However, I have the opportunity to join another high performing team and those opportunities don’t come along everyday.”
He said operations has always been rewarding.
“I really value relationships with individuals. The strongest relationships I’ve built over the years throughout my career have been through the operational side with the firefighters,” he said.
“A lot of that comes from you having experienced some real tragedies, some real challenges on the day-to-day and as part of the job and, in turn, you really develop some meaningful relationships.”
The other benefit of switching jobs is in Ruller’s personal life.
“You’re on 24/7,” Ruller said about working in NOTL.
“And that can be a little bit challenging at times. It definitely adds a level of disruption to my home life. So I’m relatively optimistic that I’ll strike a bit of a better balance on that side of it.”
“Beyond that, I can’t say there’s anything I’m running from,” Ruller said with a laugh.
Ruller will be doing shift-work with Brampton.
Ruller, who was born in New Zealand but grew up in Virgil, lives in NOTL and plans on staying on as a volunteer fighter.
“My intention is to reintegrate into that role and that’s kind of where I started and I really find it rewarding and fulfilling to be able to participate in the community and to give back in that manner,” he said.
He first volunteered with NOTL in 1998, he said.
Ruller said NOTL’s fire and emergency services are in a great position for the future.
“I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to achieve over the last five years. We’ve made huge strides in firefighter safety, everything from new self-contained breathing apparatus to decontamination and hygiene, processes and equipment that’s going to help reduce the incidences of cancer in the fire service,” he said.
Ruller was also proud of purchases for improved personal protective equipment and programs started for respiratory protection, health and wellness.
But he said the thing he might be most proud of is improving communication between frontline firefighters and the senior leadership.
“Really, the most important thing for us is to ensure that we are providing the frontline firefighters with what they need to be effective in their role because if we can allow them to be effective then, in turn, the public is served.”
He stressed that these improvements were made possible thanks to the support of the current council.
“I really genuinely mean this, this council has been incredibly supportive. I recognize that there is lots of competing interests in the community but that being said, they have been incredibly supportive,” Ruller said.
“They have really well positioned us as we move forward and I’m incredibly grateful for that.”
But Ruller didn’t want all the credit.
“I don’t think I’m ‘leaving’ the department in that position. I think it’s our members, our supportive council and it’s the strong leadership from (chief administrator Marnie Cluckie),” he said.
“It’s really been, I think, refreshing to have the open dialogue that we’ve had.”
Ruller said he will greatly miss his NOTL staff.
“I’m a people person. So, I’m going to miss my staff that I’ve had the chance to work with. I really think that’s what I struggle with the most about leaving. I have such a great staff and I’m really going to miss working with them,” he said.
“I’m lucky to be able to continue as a volunteer and at least maintain some of those relationships in a different way.”