Jim Eggert will step down this summer after 13 years as chief of the River Forest Fire Department, but he’ll remain on a consulting basis to mentor his replacement, finish projects and serve as the department’s institutional memory.
As part of the responsibilities spelled out in a post-employment agreement approved unanimously by the River Forest Board of Trustees on April 24, Eggert will continue to provide Deputy Chief Kurt Bohlmann guidance in the areas of budgeting and human resources and other departmental operations and concerns after he becomes chief sometime this summer.
Eggert said he has been mentoring Bohlmann, a career firefighter with more than 20 years with the department, for about a year.
Eggert also will handle the post-delivery tasks for a new fire truck and provide some assistance with the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center, which serves River Forest, Oak Park, Elmwood Park and Park Ridge. Forest Park will soon join the agency as well.
The 62-year-old Eggert, who has served as River Forest fire chief since 2004, will do 40 hours of in-person work annually and unlimited telephone conversations through December 2019.
In exchange, the village will pay for Eggert’s medical insurance and his wife’s Medicare supplement. He will not get sick leave or a departmental pension; he did not apply for a departmental pension, Village Administrator Eric Palm said.
Cost of the agreement over the two-and-a-half years is estimated at $25,000, Palm said.
“I love this work, and I’m happy with this place,” Eggert said. “[The agreement] shows that they value my knowledge and experience, help and leadership.”
It would be important for the department and the village to have access to his experience and his wealth of knowledge, Palm said.
“If it were up to me, we’d keep him on,” Palm said in an interview before the April 24 board meeting. “It’s gracious of him to remain active as it relates to having access to him and the ability to use his institutional knowledge.”
The contract will allow Bohlmann to transition effectively into his new role and give him the time to also manage both roles while he also delegates the authority of the deputy chief’s position to the lieutenants, Village President Catherine Adduci said.
Bohlmann’s current job will be eliminated in next year’s budget as a cost-cutting measure, saving the village an estimated $150,000. Discussions about cutting the deputy chief’s job and Eggert’s retirement were going on simultaneously, Adduci said.
Eggert has been a firefighter his entire adult life. The son and brother of firefighters, the Hinsdale native worked a little more than six years for the department in his hometown and went to the Tri-State Fire Protection District in 1978.
He rose in the ranks during his 26-year career there, serving as chief for about 10 years until his retirement in 2004. He gets a pension from that district. Tri-State serves Darien, Burr Ridge, Willowbrook, Willow Springs and unincorporated DuPage County.
The 62-year-old Eggert said he still is working out the date he will retire. He said he originally intended to step down in the summer of 2016, but the village realized that wouldn’t work because another deputy chief, Bob Nortire, a 31-year veteran with the department, intended to retire as well; a lot of institutional memory going at the same time would be a challenge. So, the village and Eggert decided to begin working out a way for the department to keep him on.
“I’m fortunate to have had this job,” Eggert said. “There are tremendous people in the village, in the community and I’ve forged great relationships here. It’s been an amazing journey.”
River Forest has a 22-member fire department with 18 firefighters, a chief, deputy chief, fire marshal and a lieutenant to coordinate departmental training.