Vermont Public Safety Head Mike Schirling to Step Down | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Vermont Public Safety Head Mike Schirling to Step Down

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Published May 24, 2022 at 4:16 p.m.


Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling
Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling will step down next month to take a top administrative job at the University of Vermont, his alma mater.

The former Burlington police chief will join the university June 20 as its chief safety and compliance officer. He will oversee the school’s emergency management, police and fire departments, and regulatory issues, he said in an interview.

In addition to the slightly better pay and being closer to his home in Burlington, Schirling, 52, said he was drawn by the opportunity to be part of such an influential institution.



“The most compelling piece for me was to be part of the flagship research university in the state, an organization that makes a big difference in Vermont’s future and has the potential to make an even bigger difference in its future,” Schirling said.
After a 25-year-career with the Burlington Police Department — including seven as chief — Schirling spent 18 months at the Burlington economic development nonprofit BTV Ignite. In late 2016, Gov. Phil Scott tapped Schirling to be secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

Scott then appointed Schirling to be the state’s top cop in 2019. In a press release Tuesday, Scott praised Schirling as “an extraordinary member of my cabinet.”

“He’s dedicated, hardworking and a dependable problem solver. Mike has devoted his career to public service, and Vermonters have been fortunate to have him. I’m confident he will continue to excel at the University of Vermont,” Scott said.

Schirling called the decision “bittersweet” because of how much he enjoyed working with Scott and the staff at both the ACCD and the Department of Public Safety.

The job proved more challenging than he expected due to the pandemic and steady calls for police reform, which Schirling said are valid but have not always taken into account the caliber of law enforcement in Vermont, he said.

“Vermont has been ahead of the curve and is so far in front of so many places in the country in terms of what is often referred to as reform,” he told Seven Days on Tuesday.
He attributed the sharp drop in morale among law enforcement officers during his tenure to a number of factors, including the stress of the pandemic; the increase in crime attributable to the pandemic; a drop in the number of officers; and the resulting increased workload for those who remained.

As commissioner, he was responsible for the Division of Fire Safety, Emergency Management, the Forensic Lab, and the State Police. As part of the state’s COVID-19 response, he was involved in vaccine logistics, restart efforts and operating testing sites. His state salary is $154,000.

Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison, a former chief in Colchester and interim chief in Burlington, will serve as interim commissioner.
Schirling studied political science and education at UVM, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“I can think of no one in our region better prepared to face the complex operational challenges of UVM as we return to normal following the pandemic,” UVM president Suresh Garimella said in a statement. “Mike’s deep experience in municipal, state, and federal law enforcement combined with his private sector and state government roles position him well for success at UVM. ”