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Algonquin-Lake in the Hills taps assistant chief to lead fire department

The Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District will get a new fire chief in August from within its own ranks.

The district’s board voted Wednesday to promote Assistant Fire Chief Peter Van Dorpe to fire chief. Van Dorpe said he agreed to replace retiring Fire Chief Patrick Mullen knowing that he has a strong team to lead and some financial hurdles to overcome.

“When you’re not, you say ‘This is what I would do if I was in charge,’ ” Van Dorpe said. “Well, it’s put up or shut up time.”

Van Dorpe will be in charge of the approximately 66 part- and full-time firefighters and staff. He sees his biggest challenge as managing the fluctuating costs of health insurance because of changes in the Affordable Care Act. He said rates could change by 20 percent to 30 percent, which would affect the agency’s $9 million budget.

Trustees feel comfortable with Van Dorpe handling those challenges, said Board President Rick Naatz. Trustees had Van Dorpe pegged as the next chief when he became assistant fire chief in October 2013 after 33 years with the Chicago Fire Department.

“That level of expertise he brings to our department is what prompted us to offer him the contract,” Naatz said.

Van Dorpe’s salary for his first nine months on the job will be $93,517. His salary will increase to $127,300 on May 1 and will continue at that rate until April 30, 2018. At that point, Van Dorpe and district trustees can negotiate a new salary, according to his two-and-a-half-year contract.

Van Dorpe will receive five weeks of vacation time from August to May, and six weeks in 2016. Starting May 1, Van Dorpe will receive 10 sick days. He also is allowed three personal days a year. The district also will contribute 6 percent to a retirement health care account and pay for his health and life insurance, the contract states.

The deal also provides Van Dorpe with a vehicle to use for official purposes.

Naatz said trustees have been negotiating with Van Dorpe for about a month since Mullen announced he was retiring for personal reasons. Mullen has been chief for two years. Van Dorpe has started searching for his replacement within the department, and plans to promote from within the ranks.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Van Dorpe said. “I wouldn’t have said yes if I wasn’t confident that we had a strong group of folks here.”

NOTE TO READERS: The duration of Van Dorpe's initial salary was corrected in this story.

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