Less than two weeks after retiring from more than 40 years as a firefighter in Brookfield, Edward Bermann is working for the village again – albeit in a different and volunteer capacity — as a member of the Brookfield Fire and Police Commission.
Bermann was one of three men sworn in at a special meeting of the Brookfield Village Board on Aug. 11 as fire and police commissioners. Also sworn in were longtime former village trustee C.P. Hall and Tim Heilenbach, who also serves as a Riverside Township trustee.
“I feel we have a group that understands how the commission works, and I have a lot of faith and trust in them,” said Brookfield President Kit Ketchmark, who appointed the trio in the wake of an abrupt mass resignation by the entire three-person commission in late July. “I’m optimistic that they’ll hit the ground running.”
The commissioners met officially for the first time on Aug. 15, a training session with Village Attorney Richard Ramello to go over the commission’s duties and protocols. The commission is responsible for screening those applying to be police officers and firefighters in Brookfield.
Terms on the Fire and Police Commission are three years in length, but because all three were sworn in on the same day, the terms are staggered. Bermann’s term expires in 2018, Hall’s in 2019 and Heilenbach’s in 2020.
Bermann said he hadn’t planned on becoming re-involved in village affairs so soon, but the commission opening provided an easy choice for him
“I was given an opportunity to serve the village in my retirement, and I’m happy for the opportunity,” Bermann said. “But it’s going to be a learning curve for all of us.”
Hall is a longtime PEP Party official and political ally of Ketchmark and the rest of the village board, who all belong to the PEP Party. He previously served on the Brookfield Plan Commission.
Bermann, who rose through the ranks of the fire department from paid-on-call firefighter to captain, has not been involved in village politics, though his late mother was a longtime village hall employee.
Heilenbach first appeared on the Brookfield political scene in 2009 as a candidate for village trustee with the VIP Party. He since has served on the Brookfield Public Safety Commission, as its chairman. In April 2017, Heilenbach was elected as a trustee in Riverside Township on a Republican Party slate that ran unopposed.
“It’s a new beginning, I guess,” said Heilenbach, who complimented the past commissioners for their service. “I certainly appreciate all they did. They did a great job for the village, and we’ll try to pick up where they left off.”
In late July former commissioners Sharon Skweres, Alan Dorobiala and Thomas Hagle resigned after a fire promotion appeared on a village board agenda before the commission approved the promotion.
Skweres, the commission’s longtime chairwoman, believed village officials had ignored the commission. Village Manager Keith Sbiral said he had assumed the commission was handling the details for the promotion.
For Skweres, dissatisfaction over what she perceived to be poor treatment over a period of years by village officials had been mounting, though both the manager and president said they were unaware of any complaints.
The flap over the promotion was the final straw for Skweres, and her two colleagues joined her in leaving the commission.
Skweres attended the special board meeting on Aug. 11 and shook the hands of the new commissioners after they were sworn in.
“I wish them well,” said Skweres, who wanted to close the door on recent events. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s over.”
The commission conducts testing for applicants, creates hiring lists and is responsible for hiring police and firefighters. The commission also is responsible for promoting police officers and firefighters
Fire and police commissioners also can review complaints against police and fire employees and impose discipline, though they haven’t been asked to handle any such cases in many years.