West Dundee seeks new fire chief after deal to share position falls through

West Dundee is searching for a new fire chief after a potential deal to share the leadership position with a neighboring entity fell through.

The village board recently approved a $19,250 contract with GovHR USA to help find a replacement for Chief Randy Freise when he retires in the next two to three months.

Initiating the recruitment process is a change of plans for West Dundee officials, who had been working toward a joint fire management services agreement with the Rutland-Dundee Fire Protection District.

The intent was to have Rutland-Dundee Chief Richard Thomas take over the leadership of both departments after Freise's departure. Freise, who announced his retirement in August 2018, agreed to stay on until negotiations were finalized, he said. But before a deal was reached, Rutland-Dundee officials informed West Dundee in late September that they were no longer interested in pursuing the shared chief option - a decision made largely out of concern that Thomas would be spread too thin, he said.

"It would've diluted me too much trying to run two separate departments," Thomas said.

West Dundee began its formal search a couple of weeks later when trustees agreed to hire GovHR at their Oct. 7 meeting. The village "strongly believes" a professional firm's assistance is necessary for recruiting department manager positions, Village Manager Joe Cavallaro said in a memo.

"It is imperative to secure the best pool of candidates and to get these positions and hires correct for these crucial roles," he said. "Individuals that are hired in these positions have tended to remain within the organization for extended periods of time."

The recruitment process is expected to take 60 to 90 days, according to village documents. It will include an initial review of applications and a first round of interviews before narrowing the pool to three or four finalists. The final candidates would then be interviewed by village staff members and trustees.

The job posting lists the position's annual salary at $102,000 to $124,000, depending on qualifications.

Freise, who has served as the village's chief since 2012, said he agreed to "be flexible" and remain in his position until his successor is chosen.

"I didn't want to abandon the department," he said. "I care a lot about the department and the guys."

Starting in 2017, Freise also spent two years overseeing both West Dundee and the East Dundee and Countryside Fire Protection District as part of their ongoing consolidation efforts. East Dundee fire board members eventually decided to terminate the agreement for budgetary reasons.

The two departments, as well as Rutland-Dundee and Carpentersville, have taken strides the past several years to share resources, unify training programs and standardize operations.

Thomas says Rutland-Dundee's decision not to share a chief will not change how closely the departments work together.

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