The City of Eagan hired Hugo Searle as its new Fire Chief. The City Council approved Searle's hiring on Tuesday, July 20, and Monday, August 9, Searle began his first day on the job. Searle will be sworn in at a future City Council meeting.
Chief Searle replaces Chief Mike Scott who retired in May 2021 after 35 years of service to Eagan's fire department.
Chief Searle previously served as Assistant Fire Chief for Saint Louis Park's Fire Department. Searle started with Saint Louis Park 19 years ago, as a part-time on-call firefighter and quickly moved to a full-time firefighter. Searle has served on the Saint Louis Park Fire Department for 19 years and Brooklyn Park's Fire Department for 10 years.
Chief Searle shared, "as corny as it may sound, being a firefighter is what I wanted to do my whole life, even as a child."
Searle continued, "it finally became reality when I was living in Saint Louis Park and had a good friend who was a paramedic. He told me 'You should be a firefighter. Your personality, experience, and abilities fit.'" I saw an opportunity for a part-time firefighter in our community newsletter, spoke with my wife, and very quickly applied. It was only a few months later that I was transitioning my life to be firefighter. "I knew [within a few months] I was made for this."
"Chief Searle brings incredible experience and insight to lead our fire department after the transition from one of the largest, paid on-call departments to a full-time fire department," says Mayor Mike Maguire. "We know our fire department is in an excellent position, thanks to all our current and past firefighters and leaders. We are excited about the skills, knowledge, and leadership Chief Searle will bring to Eagan to enhance the services we provide every corner of Eagan," he concluded.
When asked about why he was interested in this position, Searle stated, "I've been interested in taking my career to the next step and becoming a Fire Chief, but I wasn't just looking for any opportunity. I was looking for the right opportunity. When I heard Chief Scott was retiring, I thought, 'what a fantastic opportunity,'" he said. Everyone in the fire service knows what Eagan has done in their transition to a full-time department, and the great work that Chief Scott did…. It's an incredible challenge and opportunity to be able to be a part of this new, energized, and exciting department in a City that has a wonderful reputation. Who wouldn't want this job?"
When asked about his approach on leadership and the skills he brings, Searle notes, "As Chief, my role is to be a leader. I've developed the skills necessary to teach the technical aspects through being a firefighter, a union member, a trainer, an assistant chief, and mentor in my decades of experience in the fire service. And I've been honing my leadership skills in my personal life as a high-altitude climbing guide – building teams to climb big mountains around the world including the Himalayas and Mt. Everest," he says. "So, I couple my experience as a firefighter at all levels with my experiences as a mountain guide – team building, leadership, and helping people work together in intense situations, to achieve their goals, and that's what I'm bringing to Eagan's fire department."
"The change that Eagan has gone through, from a part-time paid on-call model to full-time, is a big change. It's a big cultural shift," Searle notes. "But it's also a huge investment by the City and the community. It has resulted in response times that have been nearly cut in half. That kind of response time reduction really matters! That is literally a difference between life and death, says Searle. "In seven minutes, you can contain a fire and save life. The City of Eagan needs to be congratulated on the steps they have made on service improvements. It makes an enormous difference in a community."
"This department is in such a good place. It has great firefighters, deputy chiefs, and people. So I'm not going to come in and just say 'let's change this.' But I have enough experience, knowledge, and training to know we'll eventually tweak some things. My challenge is to make sure we continue to identify areas for improvement, including increasing service for residents, working on even being more responsive, and finding more opportunities for teamwork, and honing our skills," Searle continues.
Searle shared, "My leadership philosophy is based on what I've learned from mentors, both personally and professionally. Very early on in my career, I realized that servant-leadership was something I really believed in and I strive to be. That is the type of Chief I hope to show up as each and every day."
Searle says he also believes in and values mentorship. "I currently serve as a mentor, both in the fire service and out, both informally and formally. I'm going to ask other leaders in the department to do the same, and I plan to continue to be mentored."
About Chief Hugo Searle:
Chief Searle lives in Saint Louis Park, where he has resided for the past 22 years with his wife Lynn who teaches second grade. They have a daughter Carys who will be a sophomore in High School.
Searle served 19 years in Saint Louis Park's fire department and 10 years in Brooklyn Park's fire department.
Searle grew up in North Wales, United Kingdom, and spent much of his childhood in Africa.
Searle is a high-altitude mountain guide and has led climbing teams throughout the world and specializes in the Himalaya's including Mount Everest.
About Eagan Fire Department:
The Eagan fire department has 36 full-time EMT-trained firefighters and three chiefs that are stationed at three fire stations in Eagan. The department began the formal transition from an on-call paid model to a full-time model after a study in 2017.