ELKTON — Richard K. Brooks III started his nearly five-decade career in emergency services at age 16, when he joined his local volunteer fire department.
On Friday, after spending the past 13 years serving as director of the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services, Brooks, 63, marked his retirement during a last-call ceremony outside the agency’s headquarters on Chesapeake Boulevard near Elkton.
It seemed like the right time to leave, according to Brooks.
“There’s a change in the administration. It’s the right time to make a nice, clean break,” Brooks said, referring in broad terms to new County Executive Danielle Hornberger, who took her oath of office on Monday after defeating the incumbent, Alan J. McCarthy, in the Republican primary in June and then beating Democrat opponent Jeff Kase in November’s general election.
During a phone interview on Monday, while running some personal errands with his wife, Kathy, Brooks told the Cecil Whig that he cherishes the 13 years that he served as this county’s emergency services director.
“I have been in uniform for 42 years, and serving in Cecil County has definitely been the highlight of my career. Serving the people of Cecil County has been great. The relationships I have made here have been unique and great. We are like family. We worked together through blizzards, hurricanes, floods, you name it,” Brooks said, adding with a chuckle, “And let’s not forget the earthquake (August 2011).”
Now that he is retired, Brooks — whose family life often was disrupted by whichever emergency situation arose in Cecil County during the past 13 years — plans to spend some quality time with Kathy; their son, Richard IV, who is a Baltimore County Fire Department captain; and their two grandchildren.
Brooks is a licensed airplane pilot, so he also plans to fly down to Florida and bask in that state’s sunshine during the colder months in this region.
“We’re going to head that thing south,” Brooks said.
Back in December 2007, when he was sworn in as this county’s new director of emergency services, replacing Frank Muller, who had retired three months earlier, Brooks brought a wealth of experience with him.
Having retired three years earlier at the rank of captain, Brooks was a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore County Fire Department at the time that he took his oath in 2007. Overall, counting that 25-year stint, Books had spent the previous 33 years serving on various fire companies, including the one he joined at the young age of 16 — the reason he sometimes referred to himself as a “firehouse kid.”
During the three years after retiring from the BCFD and before coming to Cecil County, Brooks worked as a senior national security analyst with Computer Science Corp. of Alexandria, Va. In that job, Brooks traveled extensively to other countries to help them work on counter-proliferation programs.
Brooks served as chairman of the Maryland State Fire Prevention Commission and was a member of the president’s board of advisors for the Maryland Fire & Rescue Institute. He also served as chairman of the Harford County Local Emergency Planning Committee.