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Finalist for Lansing fire chief's job backtracks on controversial social media posts

Posted at 11:37 AM, Mar 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-24 11:37:21-04

LANSING, Mich. — The search for Lansing's next fire chief is down to three finalists: Brian Sturdivant, Edwin Miller and Michael Tobin.

Tobin, the department's interim chief, is facing scrutiny over social media posts that some have deemed offensive.

That includes a post from October 2013 in which Tobin shared a clip to Facebook stating that "staring at breasts increases heart health" with the comment "I don't care, right or wrong, I'm in..."

Tobin posted this to Facebook in October 2013.
Tobin posted this to Facebook in October 2013.

Tobin told Fox 47 he does not remember making the post.

“With that being 10 years ago, and me being 10 years younger, and me being a firefighter in operations, I can't give an honest answer of what was going through my head or my thoughts when posting," Tobin said.

Another post shows a photo of Marylin Monroe with the caption "before anorexia and implants, there was something called sexy."

Tobin posted this to Facebook in December 2014
Tobin posted this to Facebook in December 2013.

Tobin said it was meant to send a message of body positivity.

“That one was because I have family members that have struggled with dealing body shaming..." Tobin said. "And that post was specifically to say ‘no, a woman should respect their body and all bodies can be found attractive.”

Another post describes a story of a boss laying off employees because they supported former president Barack Obama.

Tobin posted this to Facebook in September 2013.
Tobin posted this to Facebook in September 2013.

“That I thought comical, with the way that it was decided because of a presidential choice," Tobin said.

And another showed former president Obama walking his dog with the caption "Leadership: even the dog is better at it."

Tobin posted this to Facebook in March 2014.
Tobin posted this to Facebook in March 2014.

“That I can’t honestly speak of what I thought when I was posting or the content behind that," tobin said.

At a meeting with residents Tuesday night, one man called out Tobin for racial discrimination within the department.

"There's sexism happening. There's racism happening," the man said. "Why would anybody want to join the fire department? You can't even take care of them. How can you recruit minorities and people of color to come join your fire department if you can't even protect them?"

Tobin said he is working to promote diversity and inclusion within the department.

“We still are behind the curve as an industry and the Lansing Fire Department is not unique. We are still behind the curve. But there still is a lot of learning to do a lot of progression and a lot of changes that have to be made,” he said.

Two other finalists Brian Sturdivant and Edwin Miller are also competing for the job.

Miller is the assistant fire chief in Sterling Heights and has worked in that department for over 30 years.

Sturdivant is the fire chief in Battle Creek and has over 30 years of experience working in Virginia, California, Arizona and Georgia.

The three candidates interviewed with the search committee Wednesday, which will then make two recommendations to the Fire Board of Commissioners, who will then send their pick to Mayor Andy Schor for review.

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