Elgin promotes from within for new assistant fire chief

Robb Cagann was promoted assistant chief of operations for the Elgin Fire Department in a ceremony Friday that marked a series of promotions triggered by the retirement of former fire chief John Fahy.Fire Chief Dave Schmidt, who's been on the job since October,...

Elgin promotes from within for new assistant fire chief

Robb Cagann was promoted assistant chief of operations for the Elgin Fire Department in a ceremony Friday that marked a series of promotions triggered by the retirement of former fire chief John Fahy.

Fire Chief Dave Schmidt, who's been on the job since October, held the post before Cagann. The fire department has another assistant fire chief, Bryan McMahan, who oversees administration.

The promotion was "a long dream" that came "a bit quicker than expected," said Cagann, a 24-year veteran of the department who was promoted battalion chief in November 2015. He credited the teachings of his parents, the support of his wife and "the truly outstanding" firefighters and police officers of Elgin.

Cagann was chosen among six finalists in a nationwide search conducted by Elgin's human resources department, with a total of 23 applicants from as far as Rhode Island, New Mexico and Florida, Schmidt said.

Cagann spent 15 years as training officer and developed a comprehensive, skill-based training program, Schmidt said. He is a past director of the Elgin Regional Fire Academy and was instrumental in the developing the technical rescue teams for Elgin and the region, serving as team leader for both, he said.

A committee that included Schmidt, McMahan, the city's human resources director, the city's community development director and a police commander selected Cagann as the top finalist, Schmidt said. City Manager Rick Kozal has ultimate say in all hiring and promotions.

"The (city) council gave direction to cast a wide net," Schmidt said, "so that's what we did."

Proponents of increasing diversity among city employees say broad searches give more women and minorities the chance to apply. Elgin Fire Department employee data from January 2016 showed that 96 percent were men, and 93 percent were white.

Schmidt was promoted fire chief by Kozal without an outside search.

Also in the ceremony Friday at the Centre of Elgin, Richard Carter was promoted battalion chief; Daniel Wagner was promoted fire captain; and Michael Przybylski was promoted lieutenant.

Three new probationary firefighters -- Justin Lee, Austin Lawrenz and Kellen Smith -- were sworn in, joining the ranks of the department's 130 or so firefighters.

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