A Deerfield resident with ties to the Madison Fire Department, Dane County EMS and Deer-Grove EMS will be Monona’s new fire chief.
Jeremy “Jerry” McMullen accepted the post at a Sept. 8 Monona City Council meeting and takes over on Oct. 1. The council’s vote to hire him was unanimous.
McMullen will oversee a joint fire and EMS department that has a mix of full-time, paid-on-call and volunteer firefighters and paramedics. The fire department has an annual budget of about $638,000 and the EMS department has an annual budget of about $677,000.
Monona City Administrator Bryan Gadow said McMullen will be paid $98,000 a year.
McMullen said in an interview he will resign at the end of September from his job as a fire code enforcement officer with the Madison Fire Department, where he has served since 2003. He will resign at the end of the month as a limited-term employee with Dane County EMS. And he said he will resign immediately from the Deerfield Village Board, saying he will no longer have time to devote to that elected post. He has served on the Deerfield Village Board since 2011.
McMullen said he will remain a volunteer with Deer-Grove EMS, that serves the Cottage Grove and Deerfield areas. He has served with Deer-Grove EMS since 2006, and is currently a paramedic lieutenant.
McMullen told city council members on Sept. 8 that it was a “difficult decision,” to walk away from other positions in Madison, Dane County and Deerfield, but said “I saw so many opportunities with this position, that I simply couldn’t turn down the opportunity to apply.”
McMullen said he’s “really excited,” to begin in Monona. “I’m looking forward to doing some good things,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to having you,” Mayor Mary O’Connor replied.
McMullen replaces former Fire Chief Scott Sullivan who retired in March. Assistant Fire Chief Dan Eklof has since served acting fire chief.
O’Connor thanked Eklof for serving in the interim, and for agreeing to stay on to help with the transition.
“We know you put off your retirement, and that has been a huge help. We really appreciate it,” O’Connor said.
Ald. Jennifer Kuhr also thanked Eklof for what she said has so far been a “seamless” transition.
“I just want to say thank you, and welcome Jerry, we’re pleased to have you,” Kuhr said.
Ald. Kathy Thomas concurred.
“We’re pleased with everything you have done,” Thomas told Eklof, including drafting a budget proposal for the coming year.
“I echo that,” said Ald. Nancy Moore, who also thanked the city's Police and Fire Commission for “their hard work," in vetting candidates.
Gadow said 29 people applied for the position. Finalists were McMullen; Pleasant Prairie Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief David Wilkinson; Town of Madison Acting Assistant Fire Chief Brian Burkeland; Maple Bluff Fire Chief Kristopher Loy; and Edgerton Fire Protection District Deputy Chief of Operations Jason Russ.
“I know that was not an easy task, to say the least,” Moore said.
McMullen said the top challenges ahead for the Monona Fire Department are “common themes for public safety departments all over the country that rely on volunteers.”
Staffing and budget shortages, he said, are a dual challenge.
“A shortage in one causes stress and strain in the other, and that is true in both directions,” he said. “But while there are challenges, I also see more opportunities and am looking forward to seeing them come to life.”
McMullen has lived in Deerfield for nearly 20 years and plans to remain living there. He said that meets a requirement as fire chief that he live no more than 15 miles from Monona.
He called his time with the Madison Fire Department “wholly positive,” and said “the same goes for my friends on the Deerfield Village Board.”
He called the Deerfield Village Board experience “eye opening and very educational.”
“There is no better way to see and have a say in how your tax dollars are spent, than with your local village or township boards,” he said.