Fire department hires new fire chief

Donelle Pardee Whiting

After an exhaustive search, the Washington Fire Department has a new fire chief.

East Peoria Fire Chief Mike Vaughn will be taking over the reigns in Washington, effective Aug. 1.

Bob Linsley said the Washington Fire Department board of directors went through a search process.

Linsley is one of two board vice presidents.

Board members advertised for candidates, and after going through resumés, narrowed the field to five possibilities.

Linsley said five candidates went before the Illinois Fire Chief Association for an exhaustive interview process.

He added that Washington board members were allowed to observe.

“We couldn’t take part in the interviewing,” Linsley said, “but we were able to talk with the candidates during the breaks.”

Following those interviews, board members eliminated two candidates. The remaining three candidates were Vaughn and two men from the Chicago suburbs.

Linsley said all three were equally qualified to take over as Washington’s new fire chief.

However, he added, “Vaughn was the best fit for our community.”

Vaughn was a firefighter in Washington before leaving to become East Peoria’s fire chief.

However, Vaughn said when there was talk about hiring a full-time chief he said he would welcome the opportunity to put in his application.

“I am looking forward to returning to Washington,” Vaughn said, adding that his wife is from Washington.

Vaughn likened returning to the Washington Fire Department to “returning to my roots.”

Linsley said Vaughn “still bleeds orange and black.”

“Despite being East Peoria’s chief, (Vaughn) told me being our fire chief was his dream job,” Linsley said, adding, “He wanted to come back to Washington. It will be great for the community.”

While waiting for a decision from Washington’s firefighters, Vaughn took part in the crisis drill at Washington Community High School.

“We are happy the search is over,” assistant fire chief Randy Hurd said. “He’ll bring good change to Washington.”

Board president Will Galloway said Vaughn will allow departmental visibility in the community and establish lines of communication through the different agencies.

Although the fire department is a volunteer organization, Galloway said members believe a full-time chief is needed.

In addition, Galloway added a full-time chief was needed to be better aligned with the growth of the community and the needs of the department.

“(Vaughn) will be a cheerleader for the department and be able to help with recruitment,” Galloway said.

Originally, the announcement of Vaughn’s hiring was planned for a city council meeting.

However, board members decided they did not want to wait, Linsley said, adding they did not see a reason to wait now that the search was over.

Vaughn, who knew a few weeks ago he would be the new chief, said he was waiting until the WFD board members made it official.

As for his plans, Vaughn said he plans to take the department to the next level. “I want to build on the volunteerism and continue the quality of professionalism.

“I want to get the community excited about the fire department again,” he added.