Before a village council chamber packed with family, friends and fellow firefighters, Bob McDermott became Forest Park’s next fire chief, Monday.
Mayor Anthony Calderone administered the oath of office to McDermott after the council voted unanimously to promote him from deputy chief to chief, effective Friday, July 1. Fire officials from at least a half dozen suburbs and almost the entire Forest Park Fire Department, many in their dress uniforms, joined the packed house for a standing ovation.
“Anyone I ever spoke to said if there ever was a guy who should be fire chief, it’s Bob McDermott,” Calderone said. “You spent your whole life here.”
“My heart is racing and my mind is swimming,” an emotional McDermott said after taking the oath of office. He paused several times to regain his composure while delivering his remarks.
Calling himself “truly a lucky man,” he said he can still “vividly remember” when he received the call offering him the job with the Forest Park Fire Department and his first day as a firefighter.
Born and raised in Forest Park, McDermott, 49, lives in La Grange Park. His wife, Claudia, and their children, Laura, David, Marissa, Bobby and Sean Carlos were on hand for the ceremony. He joined the department as a full-time firefighter in 1988 before being promoted to lieutenant in 2000 and to deputy chief in 2003. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in fire service management from Southern Illinois University and holds chief fire officer certification from the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
McDermott thanked his family for their support, especially his brothers and sisters, who he said had to listen to the scanners and pagers going off “all hours of the night” at home while growing up.
He also thanked his predecessor, Steve Glinke, who is retiring as fire chief but staying with the village as director of public health and safety.
“I wouldn’t be here tonight without Chief Glinke,” he said. “He’s a chief who had the guts to get things done. You are leaving the department better than how you found it.”
In turn, Glinke expressed his faith in McDermott’s abilities.
“In the past 13 years, no decision has been made without your input,” he said.
“You’ve got nothing to worry about. We were lucky for the support we got. Don’t worry because everybody’s here to support you.
“Keep it simple. These guys know their jobs. Just let them do it. The only thing that will change is you’ll get a better door opener and a better parking spot.”
Earlier in the day, McDermott called his promotion “a dream come true,” noting he had always wanted to be a fireman.
“It’s kind of surreal and pretty incredible,” he said. “I feel blessed and lucky.”
McDermott said he hopes to expand the department’s public outreach with such programs as child safety seat inspections and the Vial of Life program for senior citizens.
“We live in a crazy world,” he said. “I just have to make sure our people are prepared.”
Glinke has served in a dual role as full-time fire chief and part-time director of public health and safety since 2010 when the previous public health and safety director left. He deferred many of the Fire Department responsibilities to McDermott.
“Now that it’s 2016, times have changed. It’s time for a new chapter,” Calderone said of the decision to re-instate the full-time position of director of public health and safety and fill it with Glinke. “I tip my hat to you. The entire Village Council tip our hats to you.”
Glinke will be paid $81,000 annually in his new position and McDermott will be paid $125,580 annually. Their salaries and salaries of other non-union personnel were fixed through a unanimous vote by the council following a brief closed session on Monday. Village Administrator Tim Gillian explained that the vote raised salaries for non-union personnel 1½ percent.
McDermott’s former position of deputy fire chief will remain unfilled until the village conducts a captain’s exam, which Gillian said he expects to occur later this summer.