Fire Chief Bob McDermott is retiring from a 32-year career as a firefighter in Forest Park at the end of the month.
McDermott, 53, is a Forest Park native and Nazareth Academy graduate who lives in LaGrange Park. He was elevated to fire chief in Forest Park in 2016 after 11 years as deputy chief. He started his career as a full-time firefighter there in 1988.
McDermott, who will split his time between North Riverside and Forest Park through the end of September, reported for his first day in North Riverside on Sept. 4.
“The timing could not have been more perfect,” said McDermott, who said it was time for him to leave the firehouse that’d been his second home for three decades.
“I’ve been either deputy chief or chief in Forest Park for the past 17 years, and I think there comes a point where organizations are ready for a change,” McDermott said. “I think Forest Park is ready for a change.”
North Riverside Fire Chief John Kiser resigned from his post Sept. 3, paving the way for the village to hire McDermott.
North Riverside Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. said he interviewed McDermott on Monday, Aug. 30 after an internal candidate had turned down an offer to become fire chief. That candidate reportedly recommended McDermott for the post. The Forest Park chief had just announced he was retiring effective Sept. 30.
“Timing is everything,” said Hermanek. “I think he’ll be a real good fit. He knows the guys and gets along with them. I think this is a step toward permanent peace over there.”
Hermanek was referring to a years’ long feud between village government and union firefighters that peaked during a five-year campaign to privatize the fire service in North Riverside.
The lengthy court battle, which started in the summer of 2014 and resulted in expensive and seemingly endless litigation and labor complaints, ended in December 2019 when the two sides inked a seven-year contract that expires next April 30.
McDermott was well aware of that history when he decided to take the job, saying both the mayor and Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti assured him that battle was over.
“The mayor and administrator said the past is past and they want to move forward, and I believe them,” McDermott said. “I want to be part of that process.”
Kiser had nothing but positive words for McDermott.
“He’s obviously a well-qualified candidate and familiar with the area,” said Kiser, noting that McDermott was also president of MABAS Division 11, a mutual aid organization that includes the North Riverside Fire Department. “He has a great relationship with people here that should make him successful as the chief of North Riverside.”