“It’s both exciting and bittersweet;” Jim Bachman ready to start as Peoria’s next Fire Chief

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — After 27 years with the Peoria Fire Department, the team’s second in command is now stepping into the top role.

Assistant Chief Jim Bachman officially becomes the city’s fire chief Saturday, May 15.

The change comes after last week’s announcement that Fire Chief Tony Ardis would be retiring May 14, after 27 years with the department and 18 months as the chief.

It’s a transition Bachman said he didn’t expect even after nearly three decades.

“Even 7 or 8 years ago I did not see myself in this position,” Bachman said. “However, as you get a bit older and you realize that this job takes a toll on your body, you go through some changes in life and start looking at things differently and your goals change.”

He describes the move from assistant chief to chief as both exciting and sorrowful.

“Chief Ardis and I came on together 27 years ago in the academy so our relationship has been a real special one along with the rest of our classmates,” Bachman said. “So, it’s tough to see your classmates go, you been through a lot with them so it’s sort of bittersweet for me.”

Despite the emotional roller-coaster, he said the goal is to continue enhancing the department and set the stage for the next generation of firefighters.

“I think we all hope to leave the job better than we found it and that will be our goal to continue to pass on to the younger firefighters our practices and improve upon what’s already been accomplished before,” Bachman said.

In a role that requires focusing on budget issues, policy changes, and strategic planning, Bachman said he also wants to continue the work of the previous chiefs.

“Chief Olehy’s big thing was the cancer initiative and Chief Ardis picked up on that and continued to do what we could do with limited finances,” Bachman said. “To continue those strategies and to help mitigate our chances of catching cancer, so that definitely is a big one.”

While hoping to successfully transition out of the pandemic, he also said there are plans to concentrate on issues that have challenged the department for the past few years.

“Recruitment, retention, morale, those are all things that are on the top of our list and are going to be a focus,” Bachman said. “There are some strategies in play that we would like to see brought about as well as diversifying the workforce so that it looks more like how our community looks.”

Bachman said the Assistant Fire Chief role with be filled by the Division Chief of Operations Shawn Sollberger.

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