Hiring fire chief makes sense

Published 5:57 pm Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The LaGrange City Council held its annual retreat Tuesday at the downtown Courtyard by Marriott Hotel. The retreat lasted well into the afternoon, and for good reason.

We’re still sorting through all of the topics discussed and writing stories to update the public on everything the council is working on.

One of the biggest discussions was on hiring a fire chief, which would allow Public Saftey Chief Lou Dekmar to focus solely on the police department.

Dekmar has served as the city’s Public Safety Chief for the last 10 years, which we imagine is a grueling task in a city of more than 30,000 people.

Dekmar currently oversees 126 employees in the LaGrange Police Department and around 60 in the LaGrange Fire Department.

On top of all of that, he’s also the president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest law enforcement leadership organization in the world.

He’s been to the White House this year as part of a discussion between police chiefs and our country’s top leaders.

He also speaks a lot at events, including at LaGrange College on Monday as part of the college’s 3D Journeys series.

The man has a busy schedule, one that we’re sure doesn’t slow down often.

He said Tuesday that now is a good time to separate the two departments back out.

As Mayor Jim Thornton said Tuesday, Dekmar never asked to be the fire chief, but took on the job when the city asked him to.

Ten years ago, the City of LaGrange was in a different spot than it is now.

The city’s population was barely over 28,000 people, and the growth the city is currently seeing was still years away. 

Dekmar can clearly handle both positions, but having two chiefs — one for each department — would take a large load off his shoulders.

This isn’t something that is going to happen overnight, but in time, city leaders were confident the right person could be found, and that a transition could take place as soon as later this year.  Given the city’s projected growth, hiring a fire chief seems like a smart move.

As far as a timeline, City Manager Meg Kesley said any hire would likely wait until around the time the fire department was accredited.

Kelsey estimated the hiring process could start in July and a hire could be made as soon as August, though these were just initial discussions. Regardless, this seems like a necessary conversation as LaGrange grows and the police and fire departments take on more work.