By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News
The new Isle of Palms Fire Chief would like to set goals, develop a strategic plan and get involved in the community. But first, he wants to know the men and women who will serve the island under his command. Craig Oliverius took over the reins of the IOP Fire Department on March 29, and a day later worked the first of three 24-hour shifts, giving him the opportunity to interact with nearly all of its 33 employees. “It gives me an idea of what, how and why we do things,” Oliverius said. “People are our #1 resource. I will spend time with them and get to know them. What’s great about the fire department is that it’s so team-oriented, and we have a lot of amazing people to build that team. Oliverius, now 50, was a volunteer firefighter on Sullivan’s Island and spent 20 years with the Mount Pleasant Fire Department before crossing the IOP Connector. One of his first jobs, however, was as a kindergarten and fourth-grade teacher in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where he gained valuable experience that came in handy when he moved on to his career. of fireman. “I learned to handle many dynamic situations. There is no book or manual in teaching, and it is the same in the fire service,” explained Oliverius. “You think on your feet and learn to be a good listener. This largely translates. “You’re always on stage as a teacher or as a firefighter,” Oliverius added. Born in California and raised in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, Oliverius received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, as well as a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Missouri. . After teaching for three years, he worked at the North Carolina Aquarium in Manteo, then moved to the Lowcountry, where he met his future wife while visiting friends in Mount Pleasant. The Sullivan’s Island Fire Department sponsored Oliverius to attend the South Carolina Fire Academy in Columbia. He said he paid his own way to the Academy because he didn’t know where he would work after graduating. That turned out to be Mount Pleasant, where he was hired in December 2002. During nearly two decades there, he rose through the ranks from firefighter to device operator, engineer, captain, battalion commander, deputy chief for administration and, finally, deputy chief. of operations. In 2007, Oliverius completed his paramedic studies and became the department’s first battalion commander with this certification. Oliverius pointed out that in addition to fighting building and vehicle fires, the IOP Fire Department responds to medical emergencies and water rescues and is responsible for code enforcement, education and handling of hazardous materials. He wants his department to also focus on community involvement, hosting visits from school children to the two fire stations and teaching CPR to local residents. “There are a lot of opportunities there,” commented Oliverius. “The fire department is the backbone of the community. A healthy fire service is proactive and progressive. We want to be part of any big city sponsored event. Oliverius noted that his goals as the Isle of Palms Fire Chief will be based on feedback he receives from firefighters and city administration, elected officials and department heads. He said he hopes to develop a strategic plan, a first for the ministry, by the end of this year.
Oliverius and his wife, Allison, and their 14-year-old daughter, Eliza, live in Mount Pleasant.