Brian Basek

Last fall, Brian Basek was looking forward to retiring after serving as a North Riverside firefighter for more than 30 years. 

After agreeing to stay on as chief, a position he’s held since 2013, until the April 4 election was over, Basek faced a public mutiny in the form of a “no confidence” vote by union firefighters still smarting over the village’s attempts to privatize the department.

Now, Basek appears to be ready to remain as chief for at least the next two years after agreeing to be reappointed North Riverside fire chief until 2019.

Hubert Hermanek Jr. announced the reappointment of Basek as fire chief on May 1, shortly after taking the oath of office to begin his second term as North Riverside’s mayor.

“I have total confidence in him,” Hermanek said of Basek. “He’s welcome to stay as long as he likes.”

Basek, who sat silently at a village board meeting in late March when union President Chris Kribales read a statement enumerating firefighters’ reasons for the no confidence vote, said he was re-energized by an outpouring of support that came in its wake.

“I got inspired from the support I received from the community and other people in the police and fire service,” Basek said in a phone interview last week. “Not that I ever doubted myself; everyone has bumps in the road. You have to get past those obstacles every once in a while.”

Hermanek said the hiring of Deputy Chief Thomas Gaertner has freed up Basek to concentrate on policy and administration while Gaertner has brought in more training expertise.

“A lot of things have changed over there for the better,” Hermanek said.

Basek said both he and rank-and-file firefighters have common goals in providing service for residents.

“I’ve got good guys here,” Basek said. “My number one concern is always the health and welfare of our community. The guys have the best interest of the department and community in mind; it’s a common thread for all of us. Everything else will work itself out.” 

Bob Uphues