To set the record straight – I knew Tate Mills before he really knew me. I was at his wedding. Friends of the bride.
I remember that country wedding, and then remember our first visit when we finally became residents of STMA. Learning that this guy was now the lead of the hometown fire department in Albertville, and his wife a nurse.
Talk about a hectic 2021. A part time firefighter (who yes, works another full time job) and a nurse. COVID’s front lines. Wow.
So yes, I’m lucky enough to call Tate Mills, former Albertville Fire Chief and now “former” assistant captain, a friend. And know him well enough that he’s probably stopped reading right about here – because he’s not a fan of the attention.
We’re all lucky enough to call him one of Albertville’s finest.
Mills hung up his helmet and cleaned out his locker for the last time this week. Putting a bow on 23 years with the Albertville department.
In that time, Mills has missed birthdays, family events, baseball games and so much more. Like any member of a small town department, the need to drop everything is only a page away.
He’s also been open and honest. Open in a sense that the fire department, located on 57th Street Northeast, has always been the community’s. It is the site of some fun events every Albertville Friendly City Days week, and, for much of the last 20 years, a place to remember 9/11.
AFD has been open and honest with the public in other ways. When a bus overturned on Interstate 94, killing one member of the Pelican Rapids High School band, Mills was at the center of media attention for a time. He released as much information as he could, legally, while people put the pieces together about what caused the tragic accident.
Perhaps more importantly, he was at the center of working with that Pelican Rapids family on park and garden to remember the daughter lost in that tragic accident, now located off the County 38 exit (just to the north and east) where the bus overturned. It’s a peaceful butterfly garden, and one of our community’s hidden gems.
He has been honored as Firefighter of the Year by the Interstate 94 Chamber of Commerce. He’s received accolades from the Albertville City Council. Yet Mills, ever the Minnesotan, preferred to credit his fellow firefighters.
He also helped shape one of Wright County’s largest communities – just a small town when he first started. Albertville has protected Otsego since his tenure started, something that’s become more and more difficult as neighborhoods sprawl and sometimes prairie winds sweep fires into developments – something that’s tragically happened, but amazingly cost just homes and ‘things,’ not human life.
Albertville’s work to protect Otsego has allowed it to become the county’s second-largest city. It will, most likey, pass St. Michael before the next Census in 2030.
So, thank you, Ex-Chief/Assistant Captain Mills. Your service does not go unnoticed. We appreciate your commitment to excellence – building one of the best departments in Minnesota isn’t easy.
And I won’t tell anyone about those dance moves at the wedding.
Best of luck, sir.