Fire district candidates want to give back to community

By on April 2, 2009

by Martha Quetsch
Two Elburn residents are running for one seat on the three-member Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District Board. They are incumbent Tom Reynolds, a retired Amoco Oil manager, and Richard Herra, Jr., a former Elburn firefighter.

Tom Reynolds
Reynolds has been a Fire District trustee for one six-year term.

He ran for trustee in 2003 to contribute to the community in which he has lived since 1971 and is seeking re-election for the same reason.

“Elburn has been good to me, I wanted to give something back,” Reynolds said. “I like the Fire Department, and being on the board. It’s been a real challenge.”

Since he became a Fire District trustee, the number of full-time firefighters in Elburn has doubled, and the department added an ambulance and staff to the station on Hughes Road. The district also started a pension plan and began updating its manuals, Reynolds said. The district obtained a government grant to help pay for additional firefighters.

Reynolds would like to help the district meet the needs of the future. He wants the Fire District to add another station on the near south side of town. The reason is that now, if there were a fire just south of the tracks and a train held up the firefighters, it would take too long for the Hughes Road station firefighters to get to the scene, he said.

Also Reynolds wants to increase the number of “dry hydrants” on the village’s outskirts, which connect to bodies of water to help put out fires.

Among its achievements during the past six years, the Fire District increased salaries to keep firefighters who otherwise would leave the department after gaining a year or so of experience, he said.

Reynolds enjoys community service. He is a member of the Delnor Foundation, which raises money for the hospital; he belongs to PRIDE (Proud Retired Individuals Dedicated to Education); and he has sold raffle tickets for the Fire Department for many years. In addition, Reynolds volunteers for the American Dream program, which takes groups of children with cancer to Disney World every two years. He has made nearly 20 trips.

Reynolds previously served for about a year as a fire commissioner, making personnel-related recommendations to the trustees.

He worked for Amoco Oil for more than 30 years, with his last position being general manager of the asphalt division. He also was involved in the startup of some local businesses, including the Kaneland Bank, which later became American Bank and Trust.

The skills he brings to the board from his background include managing people and budgets, Reynolds said.

He helped the Fire District get a referendum passed a few years ago to get the tax rate up, but this year the department did not request the full levy amount.

“We figure people were hurting and we have a surplus in the bank. We don’t spend money that we don’t have,” Reynolds said.

If the declining economy causes budget constraints within the Fire District, he would want to cut back on some overtime or purchases, but not staff.

Richard Herra, Jr.
Herra was among the Elburn and Countryside Fire Protection District’s first group of fire cadets, and remained with the department until 2004.

He also worked as a training officer with the Sugar Grove Fire Protection District for 18 months, and worked for the past 16 years as a member of the Naperville Fire Department.

An honorary member of the Elburn and Countryside Fire Department, he is seeking the Fire District trustee position to help the village in which he has lived his entire life.

“I take a lot of pride in the community and want to become more involved,” he said.

He wants to follow in the tradition of his family, which has a long history of service to the Fire Department in Elburn; his father, uncles and cousins have been firefighters in the village.

If elected, Herra will strive to make sure the Fire Department can keep its staff during difficult economic times.

“A lot of firefighters in other districts are being laid off. I want Elburn to be able to keep all of its employees to ensure the protection of the citizens of Elburn,” Herra said.

Having a well-staffed Fire Department also is important for firefighter safety, he said.

“If you look at line-of-duty deaths in other fire departments, one of the reasons is that they did not have enough staff at the scene,” Herra said.

Herra wants to help the Fire Department be ready for future growth in the village.

“Growth has hit the breaks now, but it will pick back up, and I want us to be in a position to deal with it,” Herra said.

Herra said with his experience, he will provide a firefighter’s perspective to the board when it makes decisions such as where to locate an additional fire station. In addition, he can offer insight on equipment purchases.

“I am familiar with it and what it is capable of doing,” Herra said.

Editor’s note: The above story has been altered to correct errors published in the April 2 print edition. The information for candidate Richard Herra, Jr. has been changed to correct his employment history. The Elburn Herald regrets the error.