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Around and About in West Chicago - 31 Aug 2011

Around and About

  • Chief Ron Ackerman

  • Tuition-free adult classes of English as a Second Language

  • WeGo Drama presents “With Their Eyes”

  • Historical Society Annual Ice Cream Social and Silent Auction

  • First Place for the Legislative Map in Ohio

              “Always leave the job better for the next guy.” This is one of the three goals Chief Ron Ackerman said he pursued in his 31 years with the West Chicago Fire Protection District. He began his career as a firefighter November 17, 1980, was promoted to Lieutenant in 1985, acting deputy chief under Fire Chief Jim Hamlin, deputy chief under Chief Bill Harper in 1986 and chief in 2002. Looking at his accomplishments since he joined the district as a firefighter, he has met this goal through his diligence to meet his two other objectives of making decisions to keep firefighters safe and providing the best emergency services to the people in the community.  

              Ackerman said, “Although technology has been a big change, I see the apparatus we are using is much more complicated and so much safer.” He explained that when he first started, firemen were on the outside of the fire engines. “Now all are ensconced inside vehicles. The training is more intense and diversified. Every one of the changes is directed to increasing the safety for the firefighters.”

An extension of his concern for the safety of fireman is the establishment of the Opticom System in the community. This is the accomplishment of which he is most proud. The system is the emergency vehicle traffic signal preemption where emergency vehicles can manipulate traffic signals, stopping confronting traffic and give emergency vehicles the right-of-way. “I really felt strong that this was so necessary for the safety and lives of persons driving emergency vehicles and the drivers of motor vehicles.” Ackerman added, “It is a proactive measure to prevent serious injury or death.” He explained, “It is not a quick stop. The signal goes through the normal pattern.”

              He worked with Pam Rion, former District 6 DuPage County Board member, who was the chairman of the Transportation Committee.  Since the initial cost of the system is expensive, her assistance for the district to receive federal and state grants was important. It took three to four years to have all the signal lights in the district outfitted with the system. “Now both the fire district and police department have access to these.”

              To the community in general the passage of the referendum in 2007 to construct two new fire stations and an increase in personnel is the legacy of his time as fire chief. Ackerman said, “It became obvious that the stations were needed as the population grew and demographics changed.” Putting together a referendum was a stressful time. “I felt we just had this one time to get it to pass and really needed to explain the need to the residents.”

              With the construction of the two stations at 1651 Atlantic Drive and 1080 Commerce Drive, “We knew we could do a better job and respond more quickly.” To come up with the best plan included not only talking with other communities who had three stations, but also “getting the input from the firefighters. We did not limit ourselves to just what we needed at the time, but to plan for future needs.” Ackerman said, “It was beneficial that we were able to demonstrate our careful spending of monies, making this the first referendum for a tax increase since 1972.”

At his retirement reception, it was announced that station 3 on Commerce Drive is to be named the Ron Ackerman Fire Station. The official dedication is Sunday, October 9, 2011.

              Again, the concept of providing the best emergency services to the community is the formation of the Community Emergency Response Teams that combines the expertise of emergency personnel with trained volunteers. “This is a great program involving citizens. Bob Hodge (Deputy Chief) and Becky Stout (Ward 6 Alderman) have put together a strong program.”

              In this same vein of meeting unexpected situations as they arise, the fire district has increased its training regarding terrorism since 9/11. This includes dealing with hazardous materials and technical rescues. “We are more prepared and continue to work on ways to tie all things together,” said Ackerman. Preparation for offering the best service to meet emergency situations started under Chief Harper, with the criteria that all firefighters have Emergency Service Training. “No matter who is the first to respond, there is somebody with medical background to help.”

              “As you go through the leadership, you find out how much you do not know. There have been peaks and valleys in the district, but we definitely are on a higher level now.” Mayor Mike Kwasman said, “I was a trustee when Ron was Deputy Chief. He demonstrated a willingness to learn and then became the teacher. With his leadership, he has made this the best fire district in DuPage County as far as I am concerned. He has left his footprint in the sand, was able to meet the meet the growth and changes in the community, worked with and praised his firefighters…talked and listened to the people.”  Ackerman said, “Both Mayor Kwasman and former Mayor (Mike) Fortner taught me that we serve one master—the residents.”

              His leadership quality has been recognized locally and nationally. In 2007, he served as president of DuPage County Fire Chiefs Association. He was featured in the October 2008 issue of “Fire Chiefs” magazine. Dave Jaenes, president of the fire district board of trustees, said, “Ron is one of the most highly respected chiefs in the area.”

              His retirement is effective Thursday, September 1, 2011. Retirement plans include a little fishing and recreation. Ackerman said, “I am not certain what I will be doing, but I definitely know I want to be doing something.”

              In recognition of his service, the fire district presented him with a cast bronze fire chief axe plaque. Also at the reception, Ackerman received a Certificate of Recognition from the Illinois Legislature from State Representative Randy Ramey (R-55), a Resolution from the Illinois House of Representatives from State Representative Mike Fortner (R-95) and a Resolution from the Illinois Senate from State Senator Tom Johnson (R-48).  The City of West Chicago honored him with a proclamation at its Monday, August 1, 2011 City Council meeting.

             Starting Thursday, September 1, through Thursday, September 15, 2011 the West Chicago Public Library District display case features an exhibit by West Chicago Sister Cities. This is in honor of the 29 guests visiting from our sister city Taufkirchen, (Vils), Germany. In addition to books, maps and flags, there is a tribute for 9/11, which includes a book of condolences from the residents of Taufkirchen and a letter to Mayor Mike Kwasman from Burgermeister Franz Hofstetter.

              Kline Creek Farm, 1N600 County Farm Road, is the site for an old-fashioned country fair from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday, September 3, 2011. Special acts are a flea circus, a tent of wonders and acrobatics. Activities include contests, games and hayrack rides. There is no charge to attend.

              Trinity Lutheran Church, 331 Church Street, resumes its regular worship hours of 10:30 a.m. Sunday, September 4, 2011.

              Monthly brush pickup begins Tuesday, September 6, 2011.

              From Tuesday, September 6, through Monday, September 26, 2011, the Board of Trustees of the West Chicago Public Library District is conducting an online Library Patron survey regarding hours of operation. Patrons can give their opinions from home at the Library website or on designated computers at the Library. It should take only a minute to answer the five-question survey.

              Tuition-free adult classes of English as a Second Language, Citizenship Preparation and General Equivalency Development Exam preparation classes begin Wednesday, September 7, 2011 at Community High School District 94, 326 Joliet Street. ESL classes are from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Citizenship classes are from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Registration for both of these classes is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. September 7, 2011. Students enter through Entrance H.

              GED classes are from 7:00 to 9:15 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. For GED classes, registration and the start of classroom instruction is September 7, 2011. Students enter through Entrance B.

              The district received state and federal grants, which allow students to attend these classes at no charge. For further information, call the school at (630) 876-6580.

              The West Chicago Public Library District, 118 West Washington Street, is having four monthly back-to-back job search assistance workshops. Jim Pacholski is the presenter. He recently retired from his second career, working eight years as a job counselor for McHenry County Workforce Network in Woodstock.

              The first sessions, covering resumes and cover letters, take place at 7:00 p.m. Wednesdays, September 7, October 5, November 2 and December 14, 2011. Topics include various types of resumes, the importance of cover letters and the importance of thank you notes.

              The second sessions, covering interviewing skills, take place at 7:00 p.m. Thursdays, September 8, October 6, November 3, and December 15. Topics include questions to ask, discussing salary, proper dress plus any others that participants ask. To make a reservation, call the Library adult services department at (630) 231-1552, Extension 4.

              Community High School District 94 WeGo Drama presents “With Their Eyes” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, September 8, 9 and 10, 2011 in Weyrauch Auditorium, 326 Joliet Street. The play tells the story of September 11, 2001 through the lens of staff and students at Stuyvesant High School located in the shadow of the World Trade Center.  It describes the variety of emotion connected with the attacks and their aftermath through a series of interviews from those who lived through this period of our nation’s history. The WeGo Drama season has the thematic focus of “where every moment matters.” The ticket price is $5 for students and $8 for adults.

              Mark Fortman is the featured artist for the month of September at Gallery 200, 200 Main Street. He displays his pen and ink drawings of area landmarks and hand painted scenery and props from local theater productions.  Fortman has been cast in quite a few local area theater productions with the most recent one as Willy Wonka in the West Chicago Park District Community Theatre Production in July. The artist’s reception is from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Friday, September 9, 2011.

              Entertaining 29 guests from Taufkirchen (Vils), Germany and wanting to give residents of the community the opportunity to meet them, West Chicago Sister Cities hosts an Oktoberfest Dinner Friday, September 9, 2011 at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6791 hall, 431 North Neltnor Boulevard. Social hour is at 6:00 p.m. and dinner is at 7:00 p.m. On the menu is cucumber salad, roast pork loin with mustard sauce, lemon basil chicken breast, potato salad, corn and soft pretzels. Jimmy & the Bavarians provide the musical entertainment. The highlight of the evening is the performance by the Gebensbach Trachten Verein Schuplatter dance group from Taufkirchen. Ticket price is $10 in advance and $12 at the door. To reserve tickets, call Melissa Birch at (630) 621-0128 or e-mail

              The West Chicago Historical Society hosts its annual Ice Cream Social and Silent Auction from noon to 3:00 p.m. Saturday, September 10, 2011 at the Kruse House Museum, 527 Main Street. Ice cream, choice of cake or pie and beverage are included in the $4 ticket price. The KHM is open for tours, highlighting its 2011 summer exhibit “Cut,” featuring cutting instruments that demonstrate their essential role in building, defense, sustenance and entertainment. The gardens, maintained by the West Chicago Garden Club, and the large trees providing a shady arbor on the lawn serve as a perfect background for an afternoon of socializing.  

              The special community commemorative program, “Remembering 9/11: A West Chicago Observance,” is at 6:00 p.m. September 11, 2011 in the Memorial Garden in Reed-Keppler Park. The garden is near National Street between Fremont Street and Arbor Avenue. Plans include the reading of stories from persons in the community, who share their memories of 9/11. To submit a story of memory mail to Rosemary Mackey, West Chicago City Hall, 475 Main Street, West Chicago, IL 60185, or e-mail The deadline is Friday, September 2, 2011.

              Sincere sympathy is expressed to the family of Shirley C. Kaelin, who at the age of 80 passed away August 24, 2011.

              Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of George Kenneth Michelson, who at the age of 97 passed away Saturday, August 27, 2011

              There are two openings on both the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission and the West Chicago Environmental Commission.

  • The Cultural Arts Commission supports cultural arts through sponsorship of art shows, special events, workshops and the maintenance of a local artist network. The group meets at 7:00 p.m. on the first Thursday of the month at City Hall.

  • The Environmental Commission researches, designs and recommends to City Council various environmental programs and policies. The group meets at 7:00 p.m. the third Wednesday of the month at City Hall.

              The Mayor with the consent of City Council makes the appointments, which are based on experience and interest. Applications are available on the website, under forms or at City hall, 475 Main Street.  Upon completion, return to Office of the Mayor, 475 Main Street, West Chicago, IL 60185. For further information, call Valeria Lopez at (630) 293-2200, Extension 170.

              At the August 15, 2011 meeting, City Council approved the bid of $24,700 for the painting of 325 fire hydrants. This is annual maintenance activity. Public Works Director Rob Flatter said, “There are approximately 1,600 fire hydrants in the city” and the time frame for painting the hydrants “is approximately every four to five years depending on how they are looking.”

           City Council also approved the bid of $69,062.75 from M&A Cement Work, Inc. for the 2011 Sidewalk Maintenance Program. The 2011 program consists of approximately 9,849 square feet of concrete sidewalk at approximately 164 locations throughout the City and 131 linear feet of curb and gutter removal and replacement.

            Professional photographer Mike Smith teaches a series of photography classes for West Chicago Park District. Smith and advanced photographer Scott Evans were featured artists with their exhibit, “Tall Ships Photography,” in March 2011 at Gallery 200. He also taught various classes for beginner photographers at the Gallery. Smith is the recipient of numerous national and international awards and specializes in theatrical portraits, commercial and industrial photography.

           The League of Women Voters of Ohio Education Fund, the Midwest Democracy Network and Ohio Citizen Action awarded first place for the legislative map in the Ohio Redistricting competition to Illinois State Representative Mike Fortner (R-95) Wednesday, August 24, 2011 in Columbus, Ohio. His map will be presented to the Ohio Apportionment Board as part of public hearings across the State of Ohio.

           The Ohio competition allows private citizens the opportunity to draw district lines for the Ohio House and Senate. Participants are required to design districts that comply with all federal and state legal requirements. The maps are scored, based on objective nonpartisan criteria using mathematical formulas to the degree to which the districts respect county boundaries, are compact, are competitive and fair to both political parties.

         Our businesses are one of the backbones of our community through not only taxes, but also for their generous donations to churches, clubs, organizations and schools. Check out my monthly column, “Business Highlights,” at

My e-mail address is


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