Fire chief will continue to wear hats in Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn By Dermot Connolly George Sheets has been fire chief of both Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge for nearly two years now, and the arrangement has worked out so well that all talk of giving up one
Fire chief will continue to wear hats in Chicago Ridge and Oak Lawn
By Dermot Connolly
George Sheets has been fire chief of both Oak Lawn and Chicago Ridge for nearly two years now, and the arrangement has worked out so well that all talk of giving up one of the positions has gone by the wayside.
“This was a concept that had never been done before is done now,” said Sheets, who became Oak Lawn fire chief in 2009, and added Chicago Ridge in July 2014, following discussions between Mayors Sandra Bury of Oak Lawn and Chuck Tokar in Chicago Ridge. His salary is shared by the villages, saving Chicago Ridge about $65,000 annually
“Some people doubted it would work. But it has been a success story,” said Sheets during a wide-ranging interview on Monday, when he discussed the improvements made to the Chicago Ridge department while cutting costs as well.
Last summer he considered going back to Oak Lawn full-time, after he oversaw the opening of the second Chicago Ridge fire station on Lombard Avenue, and the successful implementation of the part-time firefighter program. But now, he said, with the encouragement of Tokar and the village trustees, he has decided to there is no need to change what isn’t broken.
“We’ve been able to increase personnel by 50 percent, while saving the village $350,000 over the past year in the operating budget,” he said. He said the refurbished Lombard Street station is staffed 12 hours a day by both part-time and full-time firefighters, with everyone going through the same training,
“I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” said Sheets.
‘It has worked out better than people thought. We’ve got labor-management harmony too,” he said.
He said putting out monthly reports and keeping everyone informed has worked well too.
“We’re always looking at safety and how can we reduce our costs and be more efficient,” he said.
“I’m not a micromanager. I expect excellence, but I let them do their jobs, and my door is always open for suggestions,” said the chief. This style has led to improved morale, according to many in the department.
There are now 21 full-time firefighter/paramedics, including three lieutenants, and 13 part-timers on staff. The village also has about a dozen paid on-call firefighters.
“It has been a great learning experience. We all work together and all these guys have been very helpful,” said Alec Kowalczyk, a part-time firefighter from Palos Heights, who hopes to become full-time eventually.
The success of the fire department’s advancements actually earned the village of Chicago Ridge the James Baird Leadership Award for 2015 from the Illinois Public Employer Labor Relations Association.
“The central theme of 2015 was transformational change,” said Sheets. He said that with the opening of the new fire station, a second ambulance was put in service, reducing response times by nearly two minutes. By consolidating three outdated apparatus and buying the $650,000 five-unit quint apparatus last year, he said the village actually saved more than $2 million in replacement costs.
“Any time you implement change, there is going to be concerns, But (with Sheets) there is no personal agenda and no political agenda,” said firefighter/paramedic Victor Kiman, explaining the friendly relationship between management and labor.
“Years ago, it was contentious. It seems to be really improved. The communication channels back and forth are always open. That helped a lot,” said Lt. Bob Eggert.
Farewell and thanks to Nathan, Connor and David
By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 As June ends, we at St. Rita of Casica Parish and St. Clare of Montefalco Shrine sadly say goodbye to Nathan Fernandes, Connor Fitzmaurice and David Marshall. The three are pre-novices discerning a vocation to the priesthood in…
Grateful for the freedoms we have
By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place • (773) 504-9327 Happy Birthday USA! I am so grateful for the freedom we have in our wonderful country. I hope those who choose to celebrate our freedom by lighting illegal fireworks will be arrested by our police, who I hope will have the…
Graduations are so bittersweet
By Laura Ortega Your correspondent in Greater Ashburn 4214 W. 82nd Place • (773) 627-6679 Congratulations to the Class of 2022! It’s bittersweet to see everyone graduate, especially when you can remember those same individuals graduating kindergarten not so long ago. A huge congratulations to my daughter, Liliana, who graduated eighth grade. I look forward…
Peck playlot taking shape
By Mary Stanek Your correspondent in Archer Heights and West Elsdon 3808 W. 57th Place • (773) 284-7394 “It’s the things we play with and the people who help us play that makes a great difference in our lives” – Fred Rogers. Who remembers the play lots of the 60s and 70s? Can you recall…
A mom’s heart broke, and now her children are broken-hearted
By Joan Hadac Your correspondent in Clearing and Garfield Ridge (708) 496-0265 • [email protected] A mother’s heart, filled with love for her children, is unique. I understand that in a way only other moms can. I thought about that the other day as I read the profoundly sad story of Garfield Ridge mom Gisela “Chella” Ruiz.…
Kantas wins bid for 4th Subcircuit vacancy
By Carol McGowan Nick Kantas came out on top in the Democratic primary for Cook County judge in the 4th Subcircuit. He won over Amanda Moira Pillsbury in the race to fill the Gavin vacancy. Kantas had 12,652 votes to 10,393 for Pillsbury with 99 percent the vote in (218 of 221 precincts), according to…
Terry Carr elected as Lyons Township Republican Committeeperson
By Carol McGowan It was quite a celebration at JC’s Pub in McCook Tuesday night as the results came in for the race for Lyons Township Republican Committeeperson. McCook Mayor Terrance “Terry” Carr claimed victory in the race against GOP incumbent Catherine (Katie) Justak, by a 56-44% ratio (3,008-2,352) with all 69 precincts reporting. At…
Cardenas ousts Wendt in Dem primary for Board of Review
By Bob Bong Palos Heights attorney and Realtor Tammy Wendt was denied a second term Tuesday night when she was defeated by Chicago Ald. George Cardenas in the Democratic primary for the Board of Review 1st District. Wendt said the party had been out to get her since she surprisingly prevailed in 2020 over endorsed…
Aguilar wins nomination in 16th Cook County District
By Bob Bong Incumbent Frank Aguilar held off a tough challenge from Letty Garcia in the Democratic primary for the 16th Cook County Board District Tuesday night. With all but one precinct reporting, Aguilar held a 1,326 vote lead over Garcia. His 8,615-7,289 win was tantamount to re-election as no Republicans filed to run in…
Morrison knocks off former ally for 17th District GOP nomination
By Jeff Vorva In the first head-to-head election battle between the two people who have owned the Cook County 17th District seat for the past 20 years, Sean Morrison beat out former ally Liz Gorman for the Republican nomination Tuesday. Orland Park’s Gorman had the job as 17th District commissioner from 2002-2015 but gave it…