Despite not having a permanent chief yet, the fire department has been operating as usual, thanks to Deputy Fire Chief Ron Kobyleski.
“I look forward to coming to work every day,” he said.
Following the retirement of Chief Tom Ebsen, Kobyleski was named interim fire chief in April. Having served as deputy, Kobyleski worked directly with Ebsen, which made him accustomed to the responsibilities that come with being chief, interim or otherwise.
“The deputy is really here to support the chief, so I was pretty familiar,” he said.
Since stepping in as interim fire chief, Kobyleski has encountered no big surprises, just an increased workload as the pandemic winds down. He described not having a fully staffed fire department as a bit of a challenge.
Kobyleski has been serving in the Oak Park Fire Department since 1985. Before becoming deputy, he spent 10 years working as one of the department’s three battalion chiefs, which he described as shift commanders.
“I’ve had a very enjoyable career,” he said. “I love working here.”
His time as interim fire chief is about to come to a close as Battalion Chief Kevin Fadden is set to take over temporarily. Fadden is currently acting as deputy in Kobyleski’s place.
“We’re basically going to be switching roles,” Kobyleski said. “He’s going to take over for a while, so I’ll go back to being deputy.”
Rotating interim chiefs is common in police departments, according to Kobyleski, but he is unsure if it is typical of fire departments as Oak Park has not been in need of a new chief in quite some time.
“It’s been 10 years since we had a chief change,” he said.
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek told Wednesday Journal that she will not appoint a chief of the fire department before she departs in August to serve as manager in Northbrook. The decision will fall on Lisa Shelley, who was recently appointed as Pavlicek’s interim replacement. Kobyleski shared that the village plans to hire a chief from within the department.
When asked if he would like to be considered to take over as chief permanently, he responded with a resounding, “Oh yeah.” His time with the Oak Park Fire Department is far from over.
“I’ve been very happy to be here,” he said. “I plan on staying here a while longer and continue serving the people of Oak Park.”