Harford County Executive David R. Craig made the announcement Tuesday afternoon.
"Russell brings to the position years of professional and volunteer service with the Maryland fire and rescue service and has a strong background in executive level leadership," Craig said in a release Tuesday.
Strickland was initially hired as manager of emergency operations for the county in September 2012.
The Cecil County native has served in public safety since the 1970's when he began as a dispatcher with the Elkton Police Department. He and his family now live in Harford County, just outside Bel Air.
"I live in the county, am a part of the county and really want to build that system to its optimum," Strickland said during the September press conference announcing his initial hire.
Strickland has also served as a police officer at the University of Maryland Police department, a fire investigator and inspector with the Maryland State Fire Marshal, Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute employee, Maryland Emergency Management Agency employee and staff at Johns Hopkins University in the applied physics laboratory.
The county council must confirm Strickland's appointment to the cabinet level department before he can become the official director.
Craig issued an executive order to create the emergency services department in 2012 after it was recommended by the Harford County Fire & EMS Commission and the Harford County Public Safety Commission, according to Craig's office.
The department, initially dubbed the "Department of Public Safety," is being created "to help ensure the highest quality of service to the citizens and visitors of Harford County and to support our volunteer-based fire and emergency medical services system," according to Craig's office.