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West Bend, WI renews search for new fire chief

Oct 24, 2023

West Bend, WI – The West Bend Police and Fire Commission is slated to meet Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at noon where it will go into closed session to take possible action regarding "Hiring of a Fire Chief."

During the last meeting of the Police and Fire Commission on May 23, 2023, Deputy Chief Chuck Beistle was named interim fire chief.

At the time Heaps indicated the announcement of a new chief "may be in a couple of weeks."

"Our offer has been made but there are a lot of due diligence items that still have to go through which includes backgrounds, physical, drug testing and we do all that before we announce who our new fire chief is," said Heaps.

Former Chief Gerald Kudek announced his retirement in April and his last day was May 27, 2023.

Heaps would not go on record with regard to what happened during the process since its last meeting May 23, 2023.

Other questions asked included: how many people initially applied for the position, how many people were interviewed, how many candidates applied internally, and what happened to force the Police and Fire Commission to start over?

Heaps did indicate "this is not an easy job."

The Police and Fire Commission has gone outside the community in the past when it hired Jim Vest in 2000; Vest hailed from Oak Park, Illinois. Vest retired from Oak Park as a battalion chief when he was 53. Vest retired as chief in West Bend at 65.

Kudek was Battalion Chief before taking over when Vest stepped down after 12 years in December 2012. At that time Kudek was one of four candidates to apply for the job; all who applied were from within the department.

Beistle has been with the WBFD for 30 years. He's been Deputy Chief since July 2016.

"Obviously Chuck is well qualified," said Kudek. "He was my righthand man for a lot of years and I appreciate all his effort and support."

According to Kudek the next steps for the department include work on EMS, community paramedicine, and more training.

"We have great equipment and technology but will need to invest more in the people," said Kudek.

In the past, the promoting from within dates to the 1800's when Chief George Kuelthau joined the fire department June 2, 1890. He was assistant chief from 1896 to 1914 and was elected fire chief in 1915 when Chief Boden unexpectedly passed away.

On a history note: How many previous fire chiefs can you name for the West Bend FD?

Let's get you started: Kudek, Vest, Ray Roskopf, Brian Mayer, Bill Oelhafen…

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