Change in direction

Opinion: Editorials

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The Landmark View

With the hiring of John Kiser as North Riverside's new fire chief, it appears that the soap opera that's been playing out with the fire department since mid-July has ended.

At least, we hope that's the case.

Kiser takes over on Sept. 1 and will be sworn in Sept. 4, ending the brief but controversial interim term of Scott Boman, whose surprise hiring back in July caused swift backlash.

It was never very clear just how "interim" Boman was meant to be. At the time of his hire, it appeared more than likely he'd end up the full-time chief, but that soured quickly after residents and community activists started calling on the mayor to keep looking.

By all accounts, during his time in North Riverside, Boman was steady and hard-working. His relationship with union firefighters appears to have been professional and amicable.

But our belief is that Boman's fate as the long-term chief was sealed by the method by which he was chosen.

It just didn't look good.

The concept of a department head search being done undercover, with little to no input from other top officials, was a miscalculation.

With Boman aboard as an interim, however, it allowed the mayor to reopen his search in the light of day. It drew candidates who otherwise may not have known about the opening – like Kiser, apparently – and it allowed the mayor a more thorough vetting process, including the input from three other elected officials who interviewed Kiser.

In addition to that, the new chief is a known quantity in this area, someone who has worked with the fire and police chiefs in western Cook County, including North Riverside, Riverside and Brookfield.

Kiser is also civic-minded. He's served as an elected official in Forest View as a park district commissioner and as a member of the Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 Board of Education. 

As a member of the District 103 school board during a transitional period in 2011-13, he was part of the team the negotiated a new union contract for district aides and was involved in the search for a new superintendent.

It's also, we think, positive that this isn't a job to supplement Kiser's retirement. This is his complete focus, which is good for a department who needs someone with that approach.

While union firefighters would have preferred that the new chief come from their ranks, in reality that was never going to happen. With labor arbitration still pending and the lingering effects of four years of brutal labor/management unrest, someone from the outside was always going to be chosen.

The question, of course, was: Who would want such a job and such a headache?

The answer, for now, is John Kiser. We hope it's for the long haul.

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