Fire department retiree rejoins Hobart force as new chief
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 17, 2014 11:14AM
Stephen C. McKown, right, of Valparaiso, was named the new Hobart fire chief at Wednesday's City Council meeting. McKown, who retired from the department in 2011 after more than 31 years of service, received the endorsement of interim Fire Chief Bob Ellenberger, left. | Karen Caffarini~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2014 2:03AM
HOBART — Mayor Brian Snedecor has chosen a retiree and former battalion chief of the Hobart Fire Department as its new chief, culminating a yearlong search that included applicants from within and outside the department.
Stephen C. McKown of Valparaiso will take his new job Monday morning.
McKown was named to the post Wednesday after the City Council approved the mayor’s request for a waiver of the requirement that the fire chief have five years of continuous service with the fire department and confirmed the mayor’s appointment.
Several firefighters attended Wednesday’s City Council meeting in support of McKown, who was a full-time member of the department for 31 years and rejoined it as a part-time fire inspector last year. He retired in 2011.
“He’s an excellent choice. I know he’ll do a wonderful job for the city of Hobart,” interim Fire Chief Bob Ellenberger said.
Ellenberger plans to retire soon.
McKown said he was contacted by Snedecor and asked to return to the department.
“I’m honored to do it. This has been my life,” said McKown, who added he looks forward to new challenges and the opportunity to serve as chief.
Snedecor said he approached McKown about the position shortly after former Fire Chief Brian Taylor retired from the fire department on July 1, 2013, and joined the police department. Snedecor said family matters prevented McKown from taking the post at that time.
Snedecor believes McKown can move the department forward.
“We’ll see some great things coming from the department. He’s looked at as being one of the best battalion chiefs to come out of the department,” Snedecor said.
The mayor noted that the firefighters union wanted someone from within the department to be considered for the post.
“I feel there is a lot of support for someone of (McKown’s) caliber,” Snedecor said.
Thomas Castle, president of Professional Firefighters Local 1641, said plenty of qualified people in the department could fill the role of chief.
McKown joined the department in 1980 as a firefighter/EMT and was promoted to fire officer lieutenant in 1995. Three years later, he was promoted to house captain and, in 2001, was named battalion chief. He also was a rescue scuba diver and training instructor.