Elk Grove deputy fire chief hired to lead department in West Dundee

A longtime veteran of the Elk Grove Village Fire Department has been hired to take the top position this spring in West Dundee.

Lance Harris, Elk Grove's deputy chief of operations and administration, will replace retiring West Dundee Chief Randy Freise, who has held the post since 2012.

Harris' first day will be April 20, two weeks before Freise's official retirement. The overlap is intended to "facilitate a solid and seamless transition," village officials said.

The village began searching for a new chief last fall with help from recruitment firm GovHR USA. Nearly 40 candidates applied for the role, five of whom were eventually chosen for a first-round interview.

Two finalists were interviewed again in front of the village board this month, after which Harris was offered the position. His starting salary is $117,000.

"(Harris has) a very successful track record of positive employee and community relations," Village Manager Joe Cavallaro said in a statement. "He will be an excellent addition to the West Dundee organization, and is committed to improving fire and EMS service delivery to the West Dundee community and the overall QuadCom area."

When Freise initially announced his retirement in August 2018, West Dundee began pursuing a deal that would have Rutland-Dundee Fire Chief Richard Thomas take over the leadership of both departments. Freise agreed to stay on until negotiations were finalized.

But before a joint fire management services agreement was reached, Rutland-Dundee officials informed West Dundee last September that they were no longer interested in the shared chief option, primarily out of concern that Thomas would be spread too thin.

Freise agreed to stay on as the village began a formal recruitment process, saying he didn't want to leave the department without a leader. He now plans to help Harris become acclimated with the department and community.

Harris started as an Elk Grove firefighter and paramedic more than 24 years ago and worked his way through the ranks to lieutenant and battalion chief. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2014 and has "extensive managerial and supervisory experience," village officials said.

Harris will be the fourth chief in the West Dundee Fire Department's 40-year history.

"I sincerely enjoy public service and see my role as extending beyond responding to fires and ambulance requests," he said. "I am excited to get started."

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