The new year brings with it a new leader for the Macomb Fire Department. Rick Driskell, who has spent his entire professional firefighting career with the department, is the interim fire chief.
Driskell, who has not decided whether he will seek the chief’s job on a long-term basis, said he has enjoyed serving the citizens of Macomb for the past 23 years.
“And whatever I’ve got left in my tank, I plan on giving it all to the city,” he said.
Driskell replaced Chief J.R. Hyde, who spent more than 20 years at the department, the last three in charge. Hyde left to take a job in the private sector.
Driskell said, “J.R. got us steered in a good direction. I just want to keep things going in the direction that he had it going.”
When asked about challenges facing the department, Driskell pointed to the budget and the possibility of changes in personnel.
Driskell: “We’re getting to be an older department. We’re looking at possible turnover in the next few years. So just bringing new people on as the older guys are going and training them up to the standard that we’ve had here for many years.”
TSPR: “As you look to make new hires, how can you go about diversifying the force? Is that something you’re looking at?”
Driskell: “We have an unbiased system in the way that we test. All the testing is done by an outside company. There is no internal influence as far as who we hire. The testing is kind of like a standardized testing across the board. Everyone is open for the testing and how they score is how that comes out with a hiring list.”
TSPR: “Do you send notice of openings to specific places? Is there a way through those notices to try and attract a more diverse pool of candidates?”
Driskell: “That’s something I’ll have to look into. I haven’t been part of that process yet. I know that it is advertised in the newspaper and social media and things like that. That would be something I would look into.”
Driskell said the department has 20 uniformed personnel plus a part-time secretary (though the city council will be asked to make it a full-time position).
Former Chief Hyde declined to talk about his new job. But he said he enjoyed his decades with the Macomb Fire Department.
“It’s been a great career,” Hyde said.
Hyde said he studied to be a police officer. But after graduating from Western Illinois University, he took the fire department’s test and was offered a job so he decided to go that route.