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A self-disciplined man of many hobbies

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Matt Miller made Roswell his home over 20 years ago and is proud to serve as its fire marshal. (Submitted Photo)

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When you’ve trained and shod horses; when you’ve trained dogs for competition; when you’ve become a licensed falconer; when you’ve fought and investigated fires; when you’ve immersed yourself in history every chance you got. And when you’ve loved every bit of it, there are two things that says about you. First, you’re smarter than average, and second, you’ve got self-discipline.

Matt Miller is Roswell’s fire marshal. He’s been working in the fire marshal’s office since 2012, and before that, he was one of our city’s firefighters.

“I became a firefighter in January of 2003,” Miller said. “I was 26. I’ve been lucky my whole life because both of my two careers have been nothing but a hobby in my opinion. I loved working with horses. I still miss it. I don’t miss doing the manual labor of shoeing the horses but I miss the people and the horses. The fire service has been the exact same thing for me. I love doing it. I laugh about it and say I hope I never have to get a real job.

“I spent 10 years on the trucks, running calls. I kind of got interested in the investigation stuff during my recruit academy, just a little. Ten years later, a position came up in the fire marshal’s office and I thought I’d like to try it. I came into the investigation office and fell in love with it.”

Miller grew up in the Texas Panhandle.

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“I grew up in an agricultural community — ” he said, “Groom, Texas. It’s just east of Amarillo. It’s a small town, but it’s a small world. If you’ve ever driven I-40 from Amarillo to Oklahoma City, you’ve been right through it. If you saw a great big giant cross on one end and a leaning water tower on the other end, you passed through it. My parents were newspaper people, as were my grandparents. Growing up in an agricultural town, we grew up cowboyin’ and chasin’ cows.”

Miller had college plans, but a variety of interests took him another direction.

“Right out of high school,” he said, “I changed my plans of going to college. I was training and shoeing horses for people.

“I always wanted to do specialty work, shoeing competition horses, working cow-horses. There aren’t many of those in Roswell. I miss the ranchers, and backyard horses, even the pets. Running around every day visiting with different people — getting to know the horses. I’ve done something with almost every discipline that a horse can do.”

Roswell attracted Miller’s attention due to its unique history.

“I came to Roswell in the summer of 1997,” he said. “I was barely 20. One of the things I’ve always liked about Roswell is the history of the area that most people don’t have a clue about. There’s some fascinating stuff about this area. Roswell doesn’t know how lucky they are with the rich history of the fire department.”

That passion for history along with his work at the Roswell Fire Department has set him on a quest.

“I am desperately looking,” Miller said, “I’m on a life mission quest trying to find one of the original Roswell Fire Department Hose Wagons. I figure one of them is bound to be sitting in a shed or a barn or somewhere. It might be that someone has one and doesn’t know what they have.”

He looked into building a replica from scratch, but that proved impractical.

“A good friend of mine is the insurance salesman in my hometown,” Miller said. “He restores wagons. I sent him an email with a picture of an old hose wagon. He said they’re called cut-under wagons. The horses could turn the front axle under the wagon to make a tight U-turn. He said we could build one. He had the original plans. That was double the price of renovating one.”

Meanwhile, Miller continues doing work he loves, helping people keep buildings safe.

“I’ve been in the fire marshal’s office since 2012. I’ve got a little less than four and a half years until I can retire, but I could be happy to stay here until I’m 60.”

Miller has observed an increase in understanding of the overall necessity of his work.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” he said. “I think there’s a lot better understanding of what the fire marshal’s office is trying to accomplish. The fire code is complicated and it is a pain.

“Personally, I don’t like going into someone’s building and telling them what they can do with their property. But at the same time, I can understand and appreciate the fire-code requirements. With 15 years of experience seeing what a fire code can do, it is there for a good reason.

I have to give everybody my disclaimer that my position doesn’t ask me what my opinion is. The code is black and white and that’s what I have to go by. Any time we have to enforce a fire code requirement, our hands are just as tied as the building owner’s.”

When the day comes that Miller does retire, he may return to falconry. He may take his dog training back to competition level. He may shoe horses again. It would be no surprise if he did all three.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Miller said that he has other ideas that might bring him into the public eye in the future.

“Politics has always interested me.”