When David Eeg finishes his shifts as a battalion chief at the Huntley Fire Protection District, he goes home and helps run another crew: the six children he is raising with his wife, Kate.
The children ranging in age from 9 to 18 in his home may not have the maturity of his co-workers, but Eeg said there’s a lot of overlap in the necessary skill sets.
“There’s coaching, and there’s counseling, and there’s listening,” Eeg said. “I try to listen more than I talk.”
The members of Eeg’s Red Shift say their leader has mastered all those skills. Kelly Gitzke, a Huntley firefighter/paramedic who has known Eeg for 15 years, said his positive leadership has lent itself to a culture of enthusiasm and respect.
“He’s very approachable,” Gitzke said. “He would never yell. If there is a problem, he will put it in terms of, ‘What are the lessons learned? Let’s try to make this better.’”
Kate Eeg said while her husband is very skilled at leaving his job at work, he is very good at translating that demeanor to his parenting.
“I see that with the kids,” Kate Eeg said. “I’m the hothead, and he’s the one that keeps his cool and sees the silver lining in things and can pull the lesson out.”
Those who regularly interact with Eeg give him credit for bringing out the best in others, but Eeg is reluctant to take any of that credit himself.
He calls his wife “the hardest-working person I know,” and he heaps praise onto everyone at the district, from trustees to rookie firefighters, for their commitment to the department’s mission.
Kate Eeg said her husband’s selfless demeanor starts with his relationship with God. His faith, she said, has taught him how to value others.
That lends itself to an intense loyalty to his family, which is the No. 1 reason Eeg said he’s stayed in Huntley throughout his 29-year firefighting career, which began after his planned career in aerospace engineering was derailed after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Eeg is a graduate of Huntley High School and has lived in the village since he was 14. Nearly four decades later, he helps his 85-year-old father run the family concrete business during the summer.
His faith leads to his leadership philosophy, which he describes with several references to Golden Rule.
“I have to enforce the rules, and I have to be the adult supervision and that kind of stuff,” Eeg said, “but I try to hold it all together with relationships and treat other people the way I’d like to be treated.”
That applies to his co-workers and the people he interacts with during emergencies, many of whom he knows are going through the worst day of their lives.
Eeg describes the basic function of the fire department as “making calm out of chaos,” and his demeanor certainly contributes to the desired end state.
“Dave is one of my guys that I can put my pillow on my head at night and go to sleep and not worry about a thing,” Huntley Fire Protection District Chief Ken Caudle said. “He will take care of everything.”
Caudle said Eeg has become one of his go-to guys when he has a question or idea to bounce around because he knows the battalion chief will bring new ideas to the table and collaborate to achieve them.
The fire service may not have been Eeg’s original career plan, but he said he cherishes the work now. Unsurprisingly, he describes his job’s benefits through the lens of those around him.
“It provides for my family,” Eeg said. “It can be a nice, feel-good job. You feel like you’re making people’s lives better and helping them out when they really need help.”