Riverside Village Manager Peter Scalera announced last week that he has hired Spencer Y. Kimura as the village's new fire chief, ending a search process underway since April.
Kimura, who is a battalion chief with 30-plus years of experience working for the Glenview Fire Department, will assume his new duties on Aug. 15. For the foreseeable future, the 53-year-old Kimura will split his time between Riverside and Glenview, prior to officially retiring from the north suburban department.
Kimura, in an interview with the Landmark last Thursday, indicated no firm date for retirement, although he can leave Glenview as a fully vested pensioner at any point. He will celebrate his 31st anniversary with the Glenview Fire Department on Oct. 1.
"I'll continue to function as a battalion chief," said Kimura. "On my days off, I'll be in Riverside."
There were 55 applicants for the job, which came open when former Chief Kevin Mulligan was fired April 4. For months, the department's leadership was in crisis, with two assistant chiefs resigning their posts in the past year.
Scalera said he went with Kimura because of his leadership background and his experience managing people.
"I think his experience played a major role in my decision to go with him," said Scalera, "both his hands-on experience and the experience he'll bring to the department in regards to training."
Kimura said he'll be drawing on that experience as he learns more about how the Riverside Fire Department operates and as he chooses members of his command staff.
"My number one goal is obviously making sure the community is safe and protected," said Kimura. "Leadership has got to be a focus. One of my priorities is to establish a command staff, and that's going to take some time. I'll take a look to see if [what's in place] makes sense or needs to be realigned."
Glenview's department is unlike Riverside's in almost every way. Glenview has five stations and 82 full-time firefighters who service a 21-square-mile area that includes the village of Glenview, the village of Golf and unincorporated areas of Glenview and Northbrook.
Riverside has two stations, only one of which is staffed 24 hours a day and a staff of paid-on-call firefighters.
"There are advantages and disadvantages [to paid-on-call]," said Kimura. "The challenge is to try to get staffing and resources there in a timely fashion."
In addition to his many years in Glenview, Kimura holds a master's degree in managerial leadership from National-Louis University and serves as an instructor of fire science at both Oakton Community College and the Northeastern Illinois Public Safety Training Academy.
"He'll bring that level of professionalism to the organization," said Scalera, who acknowledged that his decision might not be universally hailed within the ranks of the Riverside Fire Department. Capt. William Sherman, who has served as the department's officer-in-charge since Mulligan's departure this spring, was also a candidate for the job. He has been with the Riverside Fire Department for 37 years.
"I'm sure there will be some individuals who won't like the idea of someone new coming in and would have been comfortable with someone they already know," said Scalera. "I'm excited about the decision, and I hope the community and the department embrace him and give [Kimura] the opportunity to show what kind of leader he can be."
Scalera said he hopes Sherman can play a key role in the department moving forward.
"He'll play a very important role in the future of the department," Scalera said. "He's done an excellent job as the officer-in-charge. He has the respect of the paid-on-calls and would be an asset to Spencer."
Attempts to contact Sherman were unsuccessful.
For his part, Kimura believes that bringing a perspective from outside the department can be a good thing, moving forward.
"You can have that without the other emotional personnel conflicts," Kimura said. "To move the organization to the next level, it's easier for someone from the outside looking in. For me, I feel very comfortable doing that."
According to Scalera, Kimura will be paid a starting annual salary of $75,000 and work 30 hours per week. He'll be offered the same health and dental benefits given to any village employee, and Kimura will be enrolled in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund like other village employees.