Why Mundelein police chief may get a new title

Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther is set to take on added responsibilities as the town's public safety director.

Guenther will oversee the police and fire departments if the new position is approved by the village board Monday. Deputy chiefs would run the day-to-day operations of both departments, officials said.

Mayor Steve Lentz believes Guenther is ready for the challenge.

"He's a very gifted chief," Lentz said. "He's a great administrator, and he has our confidence."

Guenther said he's humbled by the village's faith in his abilities.

"I'm very honored that the (village) thinks I'm capable of handling this," he said.

The recent resignations of Fire Chief Tim Sashko and Deputy Fire Chief Tim Leidig created a leadership vacuum in the department and prompted the move, officials said. Sashko retired in early May, and Leidig - who was to serve as interim chief - left to take a post in a different town shortly afterward.

Having one person oversee both departments could save Mundelein $150,000 annually, Lentz said.

"We are always seeking ways to be more efficient and provide quality service," he said. "This is a good way to save some money."

Guenther has been Mundelein's top cop since January 2013.

He has spent his entire law-enforcement career in Mundelein since joining the department in 1995 as a police officer. Promotions to investigator, sergeant and watch commander followed before he was named deputy chief in 2009.

Guenther said he doesn't intend to start fighting fires or accompanying paramedics on emergency calls.

"I'm here for the planning, the scheduling ... the administrative responsibilities," he said.

The skills and teamwork of the staffs of both departments make the change possible, Guenther said.

"We've got good people in good places," he said.

Guenther earns a $153,340 annual salary as chief. He'll collect an additional stipend if the board approves his new job, Assistant Village Administrator Michael Flynn said, but the amount hasn't been determined.

The arrangement isn't unheard of in the Chicago area. Lake Forest, Bolingbrook and Glencoe are among the towns that have taken this step, either on an interim basis or permanently, Village Administrator John Lobaito said in a memo.

In Mundelein, the police and fire chief posts won't be eliminated if the board approves the plan. That allows officials to smoothly return to a traditional two-leader setup in the future.

If trustees want to stick with the public safety position, they can amend the ordinance and do away with the chiefs' posts, Lobaito said.

Monday's meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at village hall, 300 Plaza Circle. It will follow a 6 p.m. public safety committee meeting at which Guenther will talk about why he believes officers should wear body cameras.

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Mundelein Police Chief Eric Guenther, shown here answering a question at a January public forum, could be named the town's public safety director. Steve Lundy/Daily Herald File Photo
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