Lee’s Summit’s ninth fire chief is not from Lee’s Summit, but he has developed his career just down the road.
Chief Michael Snider started his tenure as the Lee’s Summit fire chief on Aug. 26. He comes from the Liberty Fire Department, where he served as chief for the last five years.
Snider replaces Chief Rick Poeschl, who retired in March. The search for a new chief drew applicants from all over the region and nation. Snider grew up in Fort Osage and has spent 23 years working for the Liberty Fire Department.
Snider’s love of the fire service started when he was a boy.
“Growing up in a small community and seeing the firetrucks go by with the sirens, my interest peaked at a young age,” Snider said.
By the time he was a teenager, he convinced the Fort Osage Fire Department to re-start an explorers program the department had disbanded because of lack of interest.
He got some friends together to do it with him and became a junior firefighter at age 14. When Snider was in high school, he was able to take advantage of vocational/technical programs to earn his Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications. After high school he began full-time employment with the Fort Osage Fire District and began paramedic school.
Snider worked up through the ranks at the Liberty Fire Department over 21 years. He started in 1998 as a firefighter and paramedic. He became captain, deputy fire chief/emergency medical services and fire chief/emergency management director.
“When this opportunity arose, I was not looking for a new position,” Snider said. “I have loved the time I had in Liberty, but it was an opportunity to have additional challenges and the opportunity to grow in a larger organization.”
The staff of the Lee’s Summit Fire Department is about three times the size of the Liberty Fire Department. One of the advantages for a chief managing a larger organization is the opportunity to have more support for operations so that he can reach out and build community relationships.
“We are providing a service. The best way to provide a service is to build relationships,” Snider said. “There are too many times that our first contact with the individual or organization is in time of an emergency. We want to be out in the community, so that when we have to meet an emergency, it is not the first time we are meeting people.”
The Lee’s Summit Fire Department, which has 154 employees, already has strong community relationships. Snider says his plan is not to change for the sake of change, but to start by studying what makes the Lee’s Summit fire department able to build on its current success.
“I want to learn and focus on building relationships and learning and listening. Lee’s Summit is a premier organization. I am truly honored to be selected as the fire chief,” Snider said.
While some people see firefighting as a calling, Snider believes the calling is a call to serve others. The fire service is the way he does that, and the thrill he felt as a little boy is still present.
“I still like the fire trucks and everything I did as a child,” he said. “There’s not a better job in the world.”