WASHINGTON — The Washington Fire Department has been operating without a full-time fire chief for more than three years. That will change April 1.
Roger Traver, the department's part-time executive director of operations, will become the chief April 1, a day after retiring as a captain in the Peoria Fire Department.
"I'm looking forward to it," Traver said about his new job. "I want to make a great department and even better department."
Traver, 55, is no stranger to Washington.
Born and raised in the city, he's been an EMT and paramedic in the Washington Fire Department just about every year since 1988, even during stints as a firefighter with the Pekin Fire Department starting in 1990 and Peoria Fire Department starting in 1999.
He'll become the second full-time chief in the Washington Fire Department's history.
Mike Vaughn was the first, hired in 2008. Vaughn resigned in October 2014 after a scuffle with the board of directors that oversees department operations.
After the board's unsuccessful initial search for a new chief, Traver was recruited for the job by the board. But he wasn't ready at the time to make the career switch, he said, so he became the department's director of operations in July 2016, with many of the same responsibilities as the chief.
"Doing that job gave me time to see if I was interested in being the chief, and for the board to see how I was doing," Traver said.
After about a year as director of operations, Traver said, "I was ready to make the move."
So was the board.
In his new job, Traver will continue to oversee the department's budget, purchases and negotiations and supervise personnel. He'll also continue to report to the board and give monthly reports at Washington City Council meetings.
No major changes in the department are planned, Traver said, but he wants to increase staffing — there are about 30 volunteer firefighters and 18 EMT's on the roster — because of climbing call numbers.
The department responded to 1,278 calls in 2012. Last year, the department responded to 1,500 calls, a 17 percent jump in five years. There were 61 calls this month as of Saturday.
Traver also wants to step up an effort in conjunction with the city to visit Washington businesses and talk to owners and employees about fire prevention efforts.
Randy Hurd, who has been serving as the department's interim fire chief, will continue to be in charge of fire suppression efforts while Traver focuses on the business side of department operations.
Traver attended Central Grade School in Washington and Washington Community High School before earning an associate's degree in fire science at Illinois Central College.
He and his wife, Nancy, also a Washington native, recently moved back to Washington, where both have family.
A meet-and-greet reception for Traver and his wife will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 in banquet rooms A and B at Five Points Washington. A contract signing will be at 6:40 p.m., and District Judge Kate Gorman will administer the oath of office to Traver at 6:45 p.m.
Steve Stein can be reached at 686-3114 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.