Ill. fire chief's retirement announcement comes as a shock to city officials

Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne, 50, made the announcement on Tuesday, shortly after recovering from COVID-19 and returning to duty

Brenden Moore
The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — In a shocking announcement, Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne informed the city's aldermen Tuesday that he plans to retire at the end of the month.

Reyne, 50, a 21-year fire department veteran, was appointed chief by Mayor Jim Langfelder in 2018. He beat out eight other candidates to replace retiring chief Barry Helmrichs.

Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne announced that he will be retiring at the end of the month, an announcement that came as a surprise to city officials.
Springfield Fire Chief Allen Reyne announced that he will be retiring at the end of the month, an announcement that came as a surprise to city officials. (Photo/Springfield Illinois Fire Department)

His last day will be Dec. 1.

His sudden departure comes as the city grapples with its worst surge in COVID-19 cases to date. And it comes at the tail end of a COVID-19 outbreak that sidelined more than one-third of the city's firefighters at one point last week.

Nineteen firefighters, including Reyne, tested positive for the virus. Most have since been cleared to return to work.

Reyne has served as the point person for the city's COVID-19 response since March.

Speaking with reporters after making the announcement, Reyne acknowledged that "my timing could not be worse."

But, he said the city's COVID-19 response will be fine, noting that Fire Marshal Ed Canny has worked hand-in-hand with him throughout the pandemic and would be able to provide continuity on that front.

Reyne said he "made the decision over over the last couple of months" in consultation with his wife and kids. He confirmed that his decision was made before he came down with COVID-19 earlier this month.

"I always said that if there's light at the end of the tunnel, that's fine, but it can't be a train coming towards you," Reyne said. "I want to make this crystal clear, this is not anybody's fault. I'm not mad. I'm not mad at anything but COVID. This has made the last year of my career a nightmare."

Reyne kept his decision close to the vest, only informing Langfelder on Monday, his first day back from quarantine. Before then, only his wife and children knew. He then made his impending departure public at Tuesday's city council meeting.

He had not seriously considered retirement until this year, saying the plan was to serve at least until the end of Langfelder's current term.

But, like so many others, the pandemic threw a wrench into his best laid plans.

Langfelder said he was "very surprised at the timing of it."

"He's been a great chief," Langfelder said. "His goal was to take where the fire department was and take it to the next level with more technology and moving in that direction. So he's made great strides with regards to that."

Langfelder said he would like to have a new chief appointed before Reyne leaves, but conceded that it is a tight window.

Though possible replacements have not yet been identified, a fairly unique clause in the city's contract with the firefighters' union requires the mayor to choose the chief from the current ranks.

Langfelder said he has no one specific in mind and plans to interview anyone who's interested in applying.

"We just went through it I think it's about two years ago," Langfelder said. "So I'm familiar with the some of the candidates that would have an interest and know their strengths. So we'll do an internal process."

Reyne said he has no immediate plans for his impending retirement, though Langfelder hinted that he may have a job opportunity lined up with "a previous employer."

Reyne early told reporters that he could envision himself remaining involved in fire service in some other way, noting his past career as a fire investigator.

"I just want to get through the rest of this year and just kind of see what 2021 brings along," he said.

Before he was chief, Reyne was the firefighters' union president for two years starting in 2012 and has served as its secretary. He had been a fire captain from 2009 until his promotion to the top job.

According to city records, Reyne's base salary in 2019 was $137,657. He joined the department in September 1999.

Based on those 21 years of service with SFD, Reyne would be entitled to an annual pension of $72,269.


(c)2020 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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