Several fire protection districts in Kane County have contested elections April 5. In North Aurora Fire Protection District, three people are running for two spots. In Sugar Grove and Countryside Fire Protection District, four people are running for three spots. All terms are four years.
This race features a former part-time firefighter who, after being dismissed, organized a 2007 referendum to require the district to elect its trustees. The candidate -- Steve Gaspardo -- then ran unsuccessfully for the board in 2009. He faces incumbents Kevin Fatten and Richard Haen.
Fatten, 47, sells industrial equipment. Haen, 80, was in sales for Aurora Packing Co. Gaspardo, 52, owns a firm that does reverse engineering and three-dimensional analysis.
Gaspardo believes fire district management does not support workers well, and its high turnover rate reflects that. He wants pay, benefits and policies equalized for full- and part-time firefighters. And he wants a policy that encourages employees to voice concerns "without fear of retribution," and policies against nepotism and favoritism.
Haen wrote in a questionnaire that "as one of a team of five, we (the board) have developed a trust between labor and management that is critical in this time of cutbacks and budget crunches that all public entities are experiencing."
His top priority is replacing the 48-year-old Fire Station 1, built when the district relied on a volunteer force. Station 1 also houses the district offices. "The basic comforts for employees, such as showers and sleeping facilities, are severely compromised," he wrote.
Fatten cites 20 years in fire service, as well as skills in maintaining expense goals set by his employers. When cutting the budget, he believes education and training should be spared.
"Fortunately, we have been able to keep education and training at a high level to help keep our community informed and provide the best possible service," Fatten said.
John Guddendorf Jr., Ronald Hain, Mike Fagel and John Lehman are the candidates.
Hain, 35, is a Kane County sheriff's deputy. He did not fill out a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire. However, at a Sugar Grove candidates forum in February, he mentioned the village's growth over the last 10 years. He also said that he is interested in evaluating the human resources aspect of the district, especially as it is served by full- and part-time workers, making sure each one of those little cogs know that they are valued."
Lehman, an incumbent, is deputy fire chief in Aurora. He has a bachelor's degree in fire service management.
Fagel, 58, is a Homeland Security analyst and instructor, and teaches fire safety emergency management online for Eastern Kentucky University. He has master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia Southern University. Fagel is a commissioner with the Rob Roy Drainage District.
Guddendorf is a construction manager; he did not give his age. He has volunteered for the Sugar Grove Corn Boil, the Between Friends Food Pantry and Junior Achievement.
Lehman, 46, believes the biggest challenge for the district is balancing its protection level against the growth of the district. While it has not gotten physically bigger, the population has grown tremendously and calls for service have therefore increased.
He sees the district's first priority negotiating its first union contract with firefighters and, second, figuring out where to put future fire stations.
Guddendorf did not rank issues facing the fire district, but expressed concern about its financial positions. Residents, he said, are wary of laying off firefighters, concerned that will degrade fire service. He did not offer suggestions on trimming the budget because he has not seen the current budget.
Fagel's top priorities are long-range planning, providing as much service as possible for the money available, and making sure staff has the right training and equipment.
The money part worries him, and he believes his extensive experience in public safety would be a great benefit in evaluating services and operations.
"I have taught at and studied fire and ambulance operations from coast to coast, and can share ideas from numerous vantage points," he wrote.