Q&A: Sugar Grove Fire Protection District

By on April 2, 2011

Note: Voters can select up to two candidates.

Candidates for Sugar Grove
Fire Protection District

Name: Michael J. Fagel
Age: 58
Education and employment background:
Education: University of Nebraska, 1974, AA Fire Protection and Criminal Justice; University of Nebraska, 1975, BS Criminal Justice; Columbia Southern University, 1995, MS Occupational Safety
Experience: 35 years public safety, fire, EMS, emergency management, 10 years FEMA reservist, World Trade Center attacks, Oklahoma City Bombing, Olympics. EMS officer in North Fire Department, Aurora, 28 years; Kane County Local Emergency Planning Committee Vice Chair and Chairman (volunteer) in the 1990s, teaching emergency planning at several area universities (NIU and Northwestern), working emergency planning for DHS/FEMA operations support. Published numerous articles and texts on emergency planning, and related operations. Have been in the Mideast developing emergency management operations as well. U.S. Army Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Soldier Biological Chemical Command, 2004-2007.

Name: John J. Guddendorf Jr.
Candidate did not respond.

Name: John Shea Lehman Jr.
Age: 46
Education and employment background: Bachelor of Science—Fire Service Administration, Southern Illinois University; Board Treasurer/Trustee Sugar Grove Fire Protection District; 1987-present: Aurora Fire Department Deputy Chief; 1985-87: Volunteer LaGrange Park Fire Department.

Name: Ronald C. Hain
Age: 34
Education and employment background: Graduate of St. Charles High School, 1994; Associates Degree in Criminal Justice, Waubonsee College, 1997; Professional experience: Full-time local Deputy Sheriff for 12 years.

How would you define
the role of your office?

Fagel: As a member of the board of trustees of the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District, the main roles are that of helping to ensure that the district can appropriately function within its prescribed mandates and revenue base to provide customer service to the residents that dial 911 for emergency and support services.
It is about husbanding the assets for the betterment of the community, and also maintaining effective training, staffing and appropriate equipment so that the members of the response community can safely and efficiently perform their duties to serve the residents.
Some of the key issues also include governance, taxes, compliance with various mandates. The role is supportive of the entire process, which will help the organization function efficiently, within its means and for the public good

Lehman: Trustee of the Fire District—attend monthly scheduled board meetings and special meetings when necessary. As a trustee I am required to work with the team to set and review policy and govern the budget process. Additional duties would include approving the disbursement of funds and ruling on disciplinary issues. The board is responsible to look to the future growth of the district and plan for development and emergency response. Negotiations of collective bargaining agreements add to the many roles of a trustee on the Fire District.
I have personally served as the treasurer for the majority of my last term as well as the treasurer of the firefighters pension board.

Hain: Qualified, objective coordination and support of Fire District personnel and the citizens who they serve.

What are the top three priorities
you would focus on if elected,
and how would you address them?

Fagel: Ensure the staff has appropriate equipment and training to continue to provide excellent customer service in the community.
Ensure continued service for fire suppression, emergency medical services and other services that are needed by the community in accordance within the fiscal constraints of the current economy.
Develop long-range planning goals and guidance to guide the future of the Fire Protection District for the health and safety of its emergency responders and the citizens they serve.

Lehman: I would concentrate on balancing a 2012 budget. With the aid of forecasting software, we have a great tool to use in this challenging economy. Revenues are down, and our employees have agreed to concessions from top to bottom. Our CBA has just been ratified, and insurance and wages were top items addressed. We have to be very creative in order to maintain the service level that the citizens of our district are paying for. The trick is to not affect our ability to move forward when the economy gives us the ability to do so.
Long-range planning is critical for our success. We need to concentrate on short-, medium- and long-range goals, and when development picks back up and the demand for service of the newly developed areas increases, we need to be ready to provide it.
Develop a succession plan for the current administration in order to facilitate a smooth transition of administration. The current chief is doing a tremendous job, but he will not be around forever, and we need to make sure we are prepared for that eventuality.

Hain: Human resources; support and proper direction of fire district personnel by way of fair labor contracts and appropriate of fund distribution.
Balancing the size of the Fire Department with the dynamics of a growing community; the village of Sugar Grove has focused on building commerce. As a Fire District trustee, I must be in tune with the direction of the community to ensure the Fire Department adapts to the needs of the people they serve.
Supporting the growth and operations of the Fire Department; within the last decade, the population of the village has more than doubled. With that, the Fire Protection District has developed a full-time fire service commingled with paid-on-call fire fighters that were the basis of its function prior to the growth. My goal is to focus on the development of our full-time professionals while involving the support of the paid-on-call personnel.

What prompted you
to seek this position?

Fagel: Sugar Grove is my home, and I would like to make a difference in my own community.
I am deeply concerned about the shrinking economy and the ability to fund operations and continue to provide essential critical service for our community. I have been trained in emergency services, and want to bring something back home. I have taught at and studied fire and ambulance operations from coast to coast, and worldwide, and can share ideas from numerous vantage points that I have been exposed to in my career. It is my humble wish to bring the lessons home to strengthen our community, which is a goal I have always had, as a first responder.

Lehman: This will be my second six-year term if re-elected. I have institutional knowledge and 26 years of experience in the fire service. Community service is very important to me, and I feel that by taking an active role in your community you can help to make positive changes.

Hain: I have been involved in the Sugar Grove community as a volunteer with the Park District and elementary school. I have a deep sense of pride for the region the Fire District serves and have lived in the area for 32 years. I wish to expand my service to the community and see this position as a unique opportunity.

How do you plan
to achieve your goals?

Fagel: Sharing of scarce resources would be a key factor in reasonable economic prudence moving forward in these uncertain times. We might examine and enter into joint purchasing arrangements with other local and neighboring entities to save on bulk costs, fuel, utilities, as well as other durable goods and supplies that are not unique to the emergency services sector.
Other avenues must be explored with an open mind and an eye to the future as well. People nationwide have been struggling with the cost of health care and other fringe benefits; these must be examined as well to make sure that the staff is adequately cared for appropriately, while looking for economic reality in the face of decreasing revenues from all sources.
Vehicle and front-line equipment functionality are keys to the successful operational readiness of the organization to respond as necessary. Vehicle replacement and maintenance schedules must be constantly evaluated to provide efficient and needed equipment to support the members of the department safely, while responding to the community’s needs of life safety and property protection. Equipment rentals and other expenditures may need to be evaluated as needed to maintain an effective response organization.

Lehman: I will use my skills as a good communicator and my ability to work well with the other board members to collectively solve the issues of the district. I will stay current and knowledgeable on the budgeting process and the economic and market conditions which will influence many of my decisions as a board member.

Hain: As a public servant, I feel the most important task is listening. Listening to Fire District personnel needs, community concerns, and community leaders’ goals. From the understanding of everyone’s position, I would seek the ultimate goal of making the most sound and objective decisions in the people’s best interest.

Why are you the best candidate
for this position?

Fagel: Over 30 years’ experience in public safety, emergency services, 28 years as volunteer fire department member and officer, emergency manager, 10 years in law enforcement, 10 years as Reservist for FEMA/DHS (deployable asset) to Oklahoma City bombing, hurricanes, floods, World Trade Center attacks, Salt Lake City, US Olympic Public Safety Command (UOPSEC) 2002. Served as Intelligence Analyst, National Guard Bureau CERIAC Desk, created emergency operations centers in the Middle East, and have a sincere desire to bring my training and experience to my own community.
I helped develop the emergency tornado siren system for the village of Sugar Grove in 1999, as well as authoring their first approved disaster plan in 2007. Also, I spent 25 years as the truck fleet manger for a 100-vehicle North Aurora firm, and have a working knowledge and understanding of maintenance, finance, labor, insurance and human resource issues as well.

Lehman: I have an unconditional desire to serve our community and can offer well-rounded experience in all aspects necessary to represent the community’s and department’s needs. I can offer leadership experience, working knowledge from having served on the board, and a knowledge base related to the district, state and national interests.

Hain: I am a young and enthusiastic candidate with a strong desire to serve the Sugar Grove area. I have no current or previous attachments to the Fire Department that would obstruct my clear decision-making ability. I am a career servant in the public safety sector who has always sought new and dynamic tactics to achieve the best results for the community I serve.