By Bob Uphues
What started out as a part-time summer job turned into a 31-year career for Scott DeRoss, who retired Jan. 17 from his job as village forester in Brookfield. Hired on as a 19-year-old kid in the summer of 1982, DeRoss got a permanent gig six months later in the Department of Public Works.
He chose a career path within forestry that he's never regretted, and he became the village's go-to person for all things forestry related.
"His institutional knowledge was huge; he knows this town backwards and forwards," said Public Works Director Dan Kaup. "He's also someone who intimately knows the trees of Brookfield."
Born and raised in Brookfield (he still lives just a couple of blocks from the home in which he grew up on the village's south end), DeRoss, 51, said he chose forestry because it was a year-round part of public works and provided plenty of opportunities for learning.
In 1990, he was just one of four people in Illinois to be recognized as a certified tree worker and in 1994 became a certified arborist. In 2007, that certification was enhanced when he earned recognition as a municipal specialist.
In 2002, DeRoss was named the village's public property foreman, and he has been the village staff's liaison to the Brookfield Conservation Commission and headed the village's annual tree replacement program.
He was also responsible for selecting the Christmas tree for the Memorial Circle each year and in 2004 earned the Gold Leaf Award from the Illinois Arborist Association.
DeRoss was honored for his service to the village at the Jan. 13 meeting of the Brookfield village board.
During his time as forester, the field has transformed. Equipment and techniques have changed through the years, and the profession has most recently had to tackle how to deal with the emerald ash borer, which was officially discovered in Brookfield in mid-2012.
But DeRoss said he enjoyed interacting with residents, calling it his favorite part of the job, despite the occasional complaint, such as the ones a few years ago that accompanied a round of tree pruning.
"My favorite part of the job was the residents," said DeRoss, "the questions they had and the opportunities I had to diagnose the problems."
As for what the future holds, he has plenty of things to do around the house in addition to his hobbies of playing the drums and restoring old motorcycles and scooters.
DeRoss is one of the first staffers to take advantage of the village's early retirement program, which was passed by the village board in late 2013. The program allows participants to purchase up to five years of service credit in order to increase their pensions. At the same time, the village is able to save money by replacing highly paid staffers with more junior, less highly paid employees.
Kaup said he plans to name a new forester by the end of January, after determining how to parcel out all of the responsibilities DeRoss had amassed during his tenure with the village.
As far as naming a new foreman, a job DeRoss also held, Kaup said he was holding off on choosing a successor for now.
"Scott's been part of the department such a long time and he's absorbed so many responsibilities, we'll have to parse those out and see where they fall," Kaup said.