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Jeff McMaster sworn in as DeKalb’s new fire chief

January 30, 2019 GMT

DeKALB – It turned out that DeKalb City Council members just couldn’t wait to swear in Jeff McMaster as the city’s new fire chief.

The City Council voted, 8-0, in favor of appointing Jeff McMaster as DeKalb fire chief, effective Feb. 1, during their regular meeting Monday. With cold weather causing school and office closures throughout the county, city officials decided to do the swearing-in on Monday rather than wait until Tuesday as they had planned.

McMaster, 49, was appointed interim chief in November after former Chief Eric Hicks retired. He was previously the department’s deputy chief of operations, a position that will remain vacant to help with some of the city’s financial woes. With Deputy Fire Chief Jim Zarek also retiring after Feb. 15, he said, the department is going through an adjustment period with duty reallocation.

“That’s what I’ve been focusing on for the last month and a half,” McMaster said.

McMaster’s base salary will go from $135,900 as interim chief to $141,244 as chief, according to city documents. Hicks earned a base salary of $145,003 at the time of his retirement, city documents said.

McMaster has been with the department since 1995 after working full-time as a firefighter for the Blue Island department outside of Chicago. In DeKalb, he worked his way up from firefighter to lieutenant, battalion chief, assistant fire chief in 2012, and in January 2017, he became deputy fire chief of operations after former Deputy Chief Greg Hoyle retired.

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith said he was “pleased as punch” that McMaster is the city’s new fire chief. He said McMaster’s professionalism, along with his familiarity with the area, the department and the city’s critical financial status, will only help.

“I think that’s a good combination for us moving forward,” Smith said.

McMaster said he is committed to being fiscally responsible with equipment replacement, including fire trucks, on the horizon and helping make DeKalb safer in his new role. He said he is not going anywhere and is here for the long haul.

“I’m ready to go,” McMaster said.

The City Council also voted, 8-0, in favor of appointing Ray Munch as assistant city manager and Andy Raih as street department superintendent during the Monday meeting. That comes after the City Council approved a plan to lay off four administrators to help with budget issues.