Brenden Moore and Steven Spearie
Brandon Blough, a 21-year veteran of the Springfield Fire Department, will be the city’s new fire chief, Mayor Jim Langfelder announced Monday.
Blough, 48, will replace Allen Reyne, who abruptly announced his retirement nearly two weeks ago. Reyne’s last day was Monday.
Blough will serve as interim chief until his appointment is voted on by the Springfield City Council later this month.
Langfelder interviewed three candidates from within the department for the position. A fairly unique clause in the city’s contract with the firefighters’ union requires that the mayor choose the chief from the current ranks.
“We are in a challenging time,” Langfelder said. “We are in the midst of a pandemic and in less than 45 days, we present our budget to the City Council so naming the next fire chief is an important decision. The goal is to build on the steady hand of Chief Reyne while looking towards the successful future for this Class 1 Fire Department.”
“Brandon will be able to provide a smooth transition with his efforts as deputy division chief, while working to advance the efforts of the department,” Langfelder said.
Blough is a member of Reyne’s senior command staff, serving as deputy division chief of operations. He was promoted to the position in 2018.
Prior to that, Blough was a captain, driver engineer and firefighter.
The four other “white shirts” — the senior command staff that run the department in the chief’s absence — did not apply.
Division chief of operations Jeph Bassett and division chief of training Heather Moore had previously applied for the position in 2018, when Langfelder selected Reyne.
Reyne, in the position for just over two-and-a-half years, announced his retirement abruptly in mid-November.
It came as a surprise to many observers as Reyne is the main point person for the city’s COVID-19 response.
And it came just as the department was getting over a COVID-19 outbreak that temporarily sidelined more than one-third of its force.
Reyne said he “made the decision over the last couple of months” in consultation with his wife and kids. He said his decision was made before he came down with COVID-19 in early November.
Blough currently sits on the board of directors of the Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, a group that represents the more than 600 police and fire pension funds in Illinois.
Blough served on the Springfield Firefighters’ Pension Board from 2009 to 2018, first as a trustee and later president.
This experience may come in handy as the city grapples with a growing unfunded liability in its police and fire pensions.
The city’s fire pension systems is currently about 42% funded. Nearly $270 million in additional funds will be needed above what the city is expected to collect in property tax revenue in order to meet the state law requiring that local pension systems be 90 percent funded by 2040, according to a city presentation from 2019.
The city’s annual contribution to its fire and police pension systems has exceeded the property tax levy for the past several years.
Blough will also be tasked with maintaining the department’s coveted Class 1 rating, which it regained in 2018 after being downgraded in 2003.
The ratings system looks at a city’s fire suppression capabilities by grading the fire department, the emergency communications system, the city’s water supply and efforts toward community risk reduction.
Blough’s annual salary in 2019 was $123,666, according to city records.
Prior to joining SFD, Blough was a legal sergeant with the Illinois Army National Guard from 1989 to 1995.
Blough, a Springfield native, is a 1987 graduate of Ursuline Academy and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Contact Brenden Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/brendenmoore13.
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