Just two months after being named Riverside’s interim fire chief, Matthew Buckley has been elevated to the rank of fire chief.

Buckley’s appointment was announced by Village Manager Jessica Frances on Sept. 17 at a meeting of the Riverside Village Board. A lifelong resident of Riverside, Buckley has been a Riverside firefighter since 1988.

“It was an easy decision,” said Frances. “Matt has all of the qualities intrinsic for the position of fire chief. He’s proven himself over the last couple of months managing the department.”

Buckley, 46, was named Riverside’s interim fire chief in July, after Frances fired Spencer Kimura, who held the job for four years. Buckley served as deputy fire chief under Kimura and Kimura’s predecessor, Kevin Mulligan, who also was fired and later successfully sued the village. Mulligan won a $350,000 settlement from the village.

With Buckley at the helm, village officials are hoping to end about six years of strife within the fire department. 

Buckley has moved to shore up the command structure and plans to hire a dozen new paid-on-call firefighters, seven of whom will go through a combined fire academy with Lyons and Romeoville beginning in October.

“We have highly qualified, excellent employees who we need to tap in to the certain areas they’re good at,” Buckley said. “What I wanted was buy-in, and there is that now. That’s what I’ve stressed all along.”

In Riverside, the fire chief position is a part-time, salaried position. Buckley will be expected to work 30 hours per week and will be paid about $77,600. He is also now eligible for other benefits available to salaried employees, such as accrued vacation and holiday time. 

Buckley already worked enough hours as an hourly employee as deputy chief and interim chief to qualify for the village’s pension benefit, which is administered by the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF).

In addition to his job as Riverside’s fire chief, Buckley will maintain his full-time job as deputy police chief in Lyons.

“I reached out to Lyons before making it official to make sure they’re comfortable,” said Frances. “He’s a very valuable employee to both communities. They had no issues with him assuming this role.”

Even when he was deputy police chief in Lyons and deputy fire chief in Riverside, Buckley unfailingly responded to emergency calls in Riverside and, because he lives in Riverside, was often the first person on the scene.

“I live and breathe public safety,” said Buckley, who is married and has two children. “I live in town, my family lives in this town, my friends live in this town. That’s why I take it so seriously.”

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