Legendary community activist retiring as fire chief

Fire Chief Joe Miller and two of his students.

Legendary community activist Joe Miller is retiring from his post as Wayland Fire Chief effective July 6.

Miller, who joined the department on Jan. 1, 1972, has served for almost 50 years and succeeded Hugh DeWeerd as chief. He sent his letter of retirement to Mayor Tim Bala, who Monday night announced Miller is stepping down.

Leading the fire department hasn’t been the only thing Miller has done in Wayland. He was owner of the Miller’s Phillips 66 gas station near the corner of West Superior Street and U.S.-131 expressway for many years. He also was proprietor of an archery shop and right-hand man at the Wayland Do-It-Best Hardware offering services for bicycle repair.

If that wasn’t enough, He was longtime announcer for Wayland High School basketball and football games.

A lifelong resident, he dropped out of school in the mid-1960s, but then earned his diploma through the Adult Education program in 1975. He and his wife, the former Joan Morgenstern, have been married for more than 50 years.

Miller was the second person chosen for inclusion in the Wayland High School Alumni Hall of Fame, in 2002, behind Claude Smith and he was the the City of Wayland’s Citizen of the Year in 1980.

“He will be a tough guy to replace, Bala commented at Monday night’s meeting.

A bearded, long-haired Joe Miller received the Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year award from the late Dennis Reno.

Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Antel said she has been particularly impressed with Miller’s “benevolent grandpa” role in fire prevention programs for school children and the department’s simulated smokehouse.

Councilman Norm Taylor agreed, saying, “He’s been very helpful with the schools. He’s paid his dues as a community asset.”

Miller has overseen the expansion of the local service to the Yankee Springs Fire Department, besides continuing the close relationship the city has with Wayland Township.


  • Started way back with Joe’s dad, Earl, on the fire dept. and the ambulance crew. Joe and Danny just followed in his footsteps. Joe and Danny have both been good friends of mine for years. I don’t think Joe will have a hard time staying busy. Too much heart and energy. Congrats!

  • Congratulations and best wishes on your retirement. Thanks for many years of outstanding service, much appreciated.

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