Fire and Pain
"I hired in on November 10, 1985," says the forty-nine-year-old. "In fact, the current chief and I, we started on the same day. I spent half of my career at Station One downtown and half at Station Three out on Jackson by Vets Park. And I loved going to work every single day for twenty-five years."
Every day but the last. "I very reluctantly ended my employment with the fire department, and July 2 was my last day. My long-term goal was another six years, but a lot of factors led to me leaving, one of which was saving somebody else's job."
When Robertson started, Ann Arbor employed 106 firefighters. Today, it has seventy-two. Most positions were eliminated through attrition during the citywide staff cuts that began soon after mayor John Hieftje's election in 2000. If Robertson hadn't left when he did, though, the city would have laid off a younger officer with less seniority.
Robertson sounds bitter about those changes.
"I was a mid-level manager, and I was certainly not involved in policy. But actions speak louder than words, and the city has slowly and methodically reduced fire services. Over the last ten years, we've had fewer trucks, fewer stations, and fewer people.