Phil Chiappetta is Forest Park’s new fire chief. He was appointed by Mayor Rory Hoskins, and unanimously approved by commissioners at the Sept. 28 village council meeting, to replace retiring Chief Bob McDermott.
McDermott’s retirement is effective Sept. 30, at which point he will join the North Riverside Fire Department as chief.
Chiappetta has served as deputy chief of the Forest Park Fire Department (FPFD) since 2016. He started in Forest Park as a contract paramedic in 1997 and was hired as the first firefighter/paramedic in Forest Park in 2001. He was promoted to lieutenant in 2010.
“My goal for the department is to make sure we continue to respond to calls like we always do,” Chiappetta said. “We’re losing a combined 90 years of experience through retirements, and we’ll have people in new roles, including chief, deputy chief, and lieutenants.”
The 90 years of experience includes McDermott, Lt. Tom “TJ” Janopoulos’ retirement, and the upcoming retirement of Lt. Russ Nelson.
Chiappetta said he’s confident about filling his new role.
“Bob [McDermott] included me in everything so I could see how stuff worked,” he said.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian said Chiappetta’s involvement in leadership over recent months will pave the way for a smooth transition.
“Phil was at every single department head meeting we had when we dealt with the very beginning stages of the COVID crisis, and like Bobby [McDermott] was a valuable member of that team,” Gillian said during the council meeting where Chiappetta’s appointment was approved.
Hoskins spoke about how highly the FPFD is regarded in surrounding communities.
“[When] I’ve interacted with firefighters, they’re always talking about the professionalism of the Forest Park Fire Department, and how men and women from other fire departments want to join the Forest Park Fire Department. And Phil, you’re set to be its chief. So that says a lot about you.”
Commissioner Joe Byrnes expressed confidence in Chiappetta and the firefighters moving up to lieutenant.
“I’m sure that Phil, with the leadership he had before with Steve Glinke and Bob McDermott, will just walk right in there and start doing the job we expect him to do,” Byrnes said. As for the other promotions, Byrnes said, “I think it’ll be a smooth transition. And I think we’re still going to have the best fire department in the western suburbs.”
Commissioner Dan Novak said he is “excited about the next chapter within the Forest Park Fire Department” and also expressed confidence in the training and skills of the department.
To Chiappetta, Novak said, “I have the utmost confidence in you filling those shoes. It’s your time; you’ve been trained. You’re ready for this.” He added: “We have some great people who have been trained and are ready to fill in.”
Chiappetta’s appointment as chief leaves an opening for deputy chief, a position that will take about 3-6 months to fill, according to Gillian. The promotion must be made off a list of lieutenants who have taken the captain’s test, but currently there isn’t a list since none of the current lieutenants took the test the last time it was offered.
The village is working on scheduling the test now.
At the Sept. 28 meeting, the council voted to direct the Fire and Police Commission to appoint two candidates from its current fire lieutenant eligibility list and two candidates from its current probationary firefighter eligibility list to fill vacancies.