Rising Through the Ranks: Guilford’s New Assistant Fire Chief is Michael Shove
When Michael Shove joined Guilford’s junior firefighting program as a teenager, he probably wasn’t considering it as the first step in a Guilford Fire Department (GFD) career that has led to being named Assistant Chief of Operations. Michael’s first day in his new role as Assistant Fire Chief was this Monday, Feb. 13.
Growing up in Guilford, “I was part of the Boy Scouts and in high school, and I joined what was called the Explorer program, which was the junior firefighter program at the time,” says Michael (Guilford High School Class of ‘97). “It looked like a fun thing to be part of. I got started at that age, and I never left.”
On Feb. 10, the Guilford Fire Commission formally announced Michael’s new position with GFD. Michael, 38, takes over a role vacated by former assistant chief Wayne Vetre, who retired from GFD in November 2016 to become fire chief of Wells, Maine.
Most recently, Michael served GFD as a captain for the past eight years. The first member of his family to join the firefighting family, Michael is also married to another first responder, Guilford Police School Resource Officer Joanne Shove. The couple moved to Clinton in 2005, where they are raising their two children, Tim and Julie.
Michael grew up in Guilford’s Moose Hill Road area and took advantage of living in a coastal town by spending his summers on the water. He was already serving as a Guilford volunteer firefighter when he joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves at age 19. Eighteen years later, Michael continues to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves and is now a senior chief petty officer.
Michael began working as a career firefighter/emergency medical technician for Guilford in 2002. He says working with Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Charles Herrschaft has given him the “guidance” as well as a “hard work” ethic that helped Michael aspire to rise through the ranks.
“I was shift captain for the last eight years, and I’ve been looking to continue moving forward,” says Michael. “It’s nice that there’s promotional opportunity from within, and that the department sees the value in the people behind and moves them up. People will work harder, they’ll reach higher, to continue to move forward.”
In Michael, GFD is “fortunate to have developed a qualified leader for the position of assistant chief of operations,” said Fire Commission Chairman Kenneth Wilson in a press release prepared by Guilford’s Fire Commission.
As the new assistant chief, Michael is “assuming the second-in-command role and responsibilities,” Wilson continued. “He will be responsible for directing the Department in its day-to-day operations and guiding it into the future. Captain Shove’s education, experience, and training have prepared him for the tasks that he will face and to be successful with the challenges he will encounter. The Fire Commission is excited to work with the new addition of Captain Shove and the administrative team going forward.”
In the same press release, Chief Herrschaft added that Michael is well-prepared for his important role as second-in-command for GFD.
“Michael Shove has prepared himself for his new appointment. He has a vision for the department and what he wants to accomplish in the years to come as assistant chief. In 14 years with the Guilford Fire Department, he has accepted numerous assignments and been successful at all levels,” said Herrschaft. “He is a professional firefighter who has instructed and mentored many career, volunteer, and fire explorers throughout his career. I look forward to working with Captain Shove in his new role and I am confident the Fire Commission made an excellent selection.”
Michael’s range of experience and service with GFD includes his work with marine response, which started when he was still a volunteer firefighter.
“I actually started here working on the old marine boat, before I went into the Coast Guard,” says Michael, who went on to become certified as a licensed boat captain.
In 2003, Michael and Firefighter/Paramedic John Planas were instrumental in securing for Guilford a $337,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a new marine fireboat.
In addition to being a licensed boat captain, Michael has completed numerous firefighting programs throughout his career, leading to certification as a medical technician, Fire Officer II, Connecticut fire marshal, and CPR and First Aid instructor. Prior to joining the GFD administrative team on Feb. 13, Michael most recently served as vice president of Guilford Professional Firefighters Local 4177. In addition to serving as vice president for the past five years, Michael is a past president of Local 4177 and served on its elected board in other capacities for many years.
“I’ve been on the board almost as long as I’ve been here,” says Michael.
During his time with Local 4177 leadership, Michael helped negotiate three contracts and one pension. Because he has been promoted into a management role, Michael no longer belongs to the union.
A formal GFD promotion ceremony for Michael has not yet been set, but it is anticipated to take place in the coming weeks. In addition to Michael, the department may be planning to recognize more than one new appointment, including a new firefighter hired recently, and possibly the person selected as captain to fill Michael’s vacated post.
“The unique part about this [promotion] is somebody is moving up from within, and somebody else is going to get to move up to be a captain, and then they’ll hire a new firefighter out of it, too,” says Michael. “So the trickle-down effect is pretty big, which is good.”
Michael describes GFD as a “close-knit family, and everybody has an important role.”
In his many roles with GFD, Michael has received several fire service awards and honors. Most recently, in 2015, for his service to GFD as well as his volunteer and community service, Michael was honored with a Shoreline Hero first responder award presented by Exchange Club of Branford.
As part of his service with the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves, Michael has been deployed twice, including patrolling the New Jersey Naval Weapons Depot (2002-’03) and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (2010-’11). Among his military accolades, Michael says the one that hits “closest to home” is the 9-11 Medal he received for responding to the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in 2001.
“I spent three weeks at Ground Zero,” he says. “It was one of what I call a lifetime experience, which I hopefully never have to do again.”
Being on the job in his military role, while also having the empathy of being a firefighter/EMT and first responder at Ground Zero, continues to resonate with Michael.
“You have an appreciation for a lot—even the everyday emergencies we respond to here,” Michael says. “There’s a lot of value to everything we do. It makes you appreciate what we do, the service we provide, and the importance of all the things that we do.”