Steve Glinke’s catch of the week is a full foot long with a slippery tail and two fanged teeth that send shivers up the spine of every homeowner.
It’s rat season in Forest Park — and just about every other municipality in the northern hemisphere — and so returns Glinke’s friendly competition with the village’s pest control contractor to snag the biggest rodent every week as they work together to rid the village, as much as is humanly possible, of rats and mice.
Rat wrangling is not, by title, supposed to be at the top of Glinke’s work priorities. But for the man who takes his role as a public servant seriously, it’s about this time of year that the phones in the department of public health and safety offices in the basement of village hall start ringing with seemingly every rodent sighting in town.
“Our job always is to help educate the public,” Glinke, the village’s former fire chief and now director of the public health and safety department, said from his office last week. “A lot of times they’ll say, ‘well, we see a rat in the alley.’ Well, that’s not the village’s rat. We didn’t put them there. We didn’t raise them. They need two things: they need food and water, and they need harborage. Our area’s all concrete.”
Glinke, whose biting sense of humor masks a true conviction for the work he does, may not claim ownership of the village’s rats, but he can still be found on a regular basis checking traps or helping homeowners rat-proof their properties. He even creates his own rat “pate” out of white bread, tuna fish and liquid poison to line area rat traps.
“They eat it like caviar,” he said. “And that’s a sure sign that your strategy’s working is you see hits on the bait. A lot of times we put those commercial baits out there and rats are, um, they’re a lot smarter than people think they are. You don’t survive the plague without having some survival skills.”
The Sisyphean task of preventing rats from burrowing around town starts with a few simple measures homeowners and their neighbors can take, as illustrated on a leaflet helpfully available on the village’s website at www.forestpark.net/dfp/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Rat-Brochure.pdf. Measures include storing trash in rat-resistant containers, eliminating tall grass where rats like to hide and cleaning up after your pets, but in the last few years when the rats do appear and a call gets made to his office, it’s often Glinke himself — one of only two full-time employees in the department — who comes to answer.
“I started going out during COVID simply because we made budget cuts,” Glinke said. “It was one of the line items that we sort of took down and I don’t mind it, to be honest with you, I’ll pretty much do anything that will get me out of the office.
“Yeah, I guess it is a little anomalous that the director will come out, but a lot of it, it’s just simply public engagement.”
Last week, the village newsletter reminded residents of nine steps to take to control the rat population themselves. The 10th step was to call Steve Glinke’s office.