Fire Chief Eric Hicks has served the City of DeKalb and the DeKalb community for the past 30 years. Chief Hicks began his fire service career when he was hired by the City as a probationary Firefighter in 1989. He worked his way through the ranks of the Fire Department and was appointed Fire Chief in 2012. Over these 30 years, Chief Hicks has faced countless challenges and opportunities, all of which he has met with extreme professionalism and selflessness. Those who have worked with Chief Hicks can likely point to any number of defining moments in his career, but the one example I am most familiar with is the Chief’s role as one of the first public safety personnel to arrive on the scene of the NIU Cole Hall Shooting in 2008. I’ve had several conversations with Chief Hicks about that day, and it is clear that it had a profound impact on him, not just as a person, but in how he viewed the responsibility this City has to protect its citizens. I have only had the pleasure of working with Chief Hicks for a short time, but it is clear to me that he is not only a great leader but a selfless public servant.
These two qualities became apparent this summer when we learned that the City is facing significant fiscal challenges. The City Manager’s Office asked each department head to carefully evaluate potential budget-balancing measures for their departments, and Chief Hicks took that challenge to heart. The Fire Department’s budget-balancing proposals represented the most well thought out and comprehensive package of any department. To be frank, Chief Hicks laid it all on the line for the good of the City. As I turned the pages in the Chief’s proposal, I reached one page, in particular, that gave me great pause. Chief Hicks had proposed the elimination of the Deputy Chief of Operations position within the department. Upon reading the full proposal, it was clear that Chief Hicks was willing to fall on the sword for the sake of the department. He later confirmed that, if needed, he was willing to retire so that the City could promote from within the ranks and eliminate one Deputy Chief position.
As that scenario has now come to bear, we should all recognize the countless sacrifices Chief Hicks has made for this City over the course of 30 years. Whether it be the birthdays, holidays, and family events that he missed out on when working 24-hour shifts or the selfless act of stepping aside for the greater good of the City, Chief Hicks has placed the citizens of this City ahead of himself. While his departure from the Fire Department will have a profound impact, we can all rest assured that among the many places Chief Hicks has succeeded is in preparing his department for the future. Chief Hicks leaves the department in many capable hands. I am confident that in the coming weeks, the next leader of the department will rise to the surface. When that happens, we will once again be able to thank Chief Hicks for his leadership and his countless contributions to the men and women of the DeKalb Fire Department and the citizens of DeKalb.
Chief Hicks, on behalf of the City of DeKalb, I thank you and your family for your service and dedication and wish you all the best in the next chapter of your life.
Interim City Manager