Edwardsville Intelligencer, Ill.
Sep. 3—MARYVILLE — Working for village government, it’s not unusual to wear more than one hat at work; that’s what Kevin Flaugher has done for the past 25 years.
Since 1984, he has been a member of the Maryville Fire Department and starting in 1996, he was appointed the building and zoning administrator for the village. His last day as fire chief was Wednesday. He will remain in the building department until Oct. 1.
“My parents moved to Maryville two weeks before I was born,” he recalled. Being a born and raised Maryvillian, Flaugher said his family lived only a couple of blocks from the firehouse and it was not uncommon for him to tail the ambulances on his bicycle to see where they went and find out what had happened.
To illustrate the change he has seen since originally joining the department, Flaugher said in 1984, the department ran 122 calls all year. In 2020, there were a few months that met or exceeded that total. He said they run about 1,300 calls a year these days.
He started his career as a volunteer firefighter and worked his way up through the ranks. He became assistant chief in 1988 and appointed fire chief in 1995. Deputy fire chief George May will succeed him as chief.
“I’m excited about George taking over because I think he will do a very good job,” Flaugher said.
Flaugher said former mayor Larry Gulledge was his next-door neighbor. Gulledge served as the village’s mayor between 1993 and 2014.
Three major calls Flaugher remembers going out on as a firefighter include Andy’s Auto Body in 2015; a natural gas explosion the following year on Route 162 and the Villas at Nottingham; and after Pastor Fred Winters was shot and killed in church in 2009.
Flaugher said his department has 29 personnel, and they are what is known as a combination department, some full-time firefighters, part-time EMS and paid-on-call firemen.
Some accomplishments or achievements during his time as chief include upgrading the village’s EMS service to paramedic level and instituting 24-hour EMS service. Both changes were to provide better service to village residents when needed. Before the advent of 24-hour service, Flaugher said EMS was on-call for 12 hours and the other 12 hours were handled by the paid, on-call firefighters.
The department has enhanced its response times since Flaugher has been at the helm and since addition of 24-hour EMS service, an addition had to be grafted onto the fire station for additional sleeping quarters.
Flaugher noted that the village’s biggest growth right now is to the west, toward Route 157.
He said the department has upped its fire apparatus since he has been chief. In 2015, they bought the village’s first 75-foot ladder truck; They have a 2021 fire engine on order that should arrive in December or January 2022; and they have two ambulances and two engines.
“I had no idea I would be doing this for this long,” he said.
He ended up wearing the building and zoning hat after what he called a fluke. He said Mayor Gulledge appointed him to be building and zoning administrator. When he wasn’t working part-time in the fire department, Flaugher was working at a company in St. Louis full-time to make ends meet. Given the chance to work full-time for the village where he was born and raised was a “no-brainer” and he agreed to take on the other duties.
Initially, however, the board of trustees at the time was concerned about the legality and feasibility of Flaugher doing both jobs but he said in the end, they decided that it was better to have him in the village as building and zoning if something happened where he needed to swap hats and become fire chief than in St. Louis.
“I didn’t have much experience; I did a little training with Madison County and it worked out,” he said. Within five years, he said he had a department of four, owing to a mini-housing boom. Between 2000 and 2004, the village issued 588 permits for new, single-family homes. He hired an administrative assistant, a code enforcement/animal control person and a building inspector to help with the workload.
The housing crash and economic recession of the late 2000s helped whittle those positions away until he was a department of one again.
“I enjoyed both jobs equally; it would become overwhelming at times but overall, I liked them both,” he said of his village positions.
His plans after Oct. 1 are to relax, spend time with his grandchildren and retain a recent part-time job “to keep busy.” He and his wife have two sons and two grandchildren.
I’m not one who enjoys being in the spotlight,” he said. “I hope I left the place better than when I found it,” he said of the two positions. Now, I just want to ride off into the sunset.”
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