City Council thanks Henning for service, welcomes Vahlkamp as next fire chief

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Retiring fire chief Joe Henning holds his granddaughter, Ruth, while talking with new fire chief Bernie Vahlkamp, left, and Mike Dade, deputy chief of administration, before Monday's Quincy City Council meeting. Henning's son, Wilson, is seated next to him.

QUINCY — As the Quincy City Council recognized the new, it also took an opportunity to say thanks to the old.

Bernie Vahlkamp, who has been with the Quincy Fire Department since August 1997, was introduced as the next fire chief at Monday night’s City Council meeting. He was one of three finalists to meet with the Quincy Police and Fire Commission last week. 

Before Vahlkamp’s introduction, the City Council took time to say thanks to Joe Henning, who has been the city’s fire chief since May 2009. Henning’s last day is Thursday. He is taking a teaching position at Western Illinois University.

“Joe has been the consummate professional,” said Barry Cheyne, one of the three members of the Police and Fire Commission.

Quincy Mayor Mike Troup read a proclamation recognizing Henning’s accomplishments. He also gave Henning a glass figurine shaped like a gem. 

As Vahlkamp was introduced, he acknowledged the contributions of his father, Raymond “Skip” Vahlkamp, a 28-year alderman in the 6th Ward, and his grandfather, Raymond “Penie” Vahlkamp, a member of the Quincy Fire Department from 1946-69.

“I’m looking forward and excited for the challenges to come,” Vahlkamp said. “I look forward to working with this administration to provide the services we provide. 

“We have a really good fire department. I want to make sure we keep improving on that and we maintain our level of discipline and our level of training. I’m ready to jump right in.”

Vahlkamp was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in May 2002, to captain in May 2009 and to assistant chief in August 2015.

He believes staffing levels will be one of the first topics he deals with. When Henning took over as fire chief, he oversaw a staff of 69 firefighters. The Quincy Fire Department now has 54 firefighters and three members of the office staff. 

“We’re going to need some new people to bring on board,” Vahlkamp said. “The levels we need to run the engine … have been a problem for the fire department the past three years. We’ll be working with the council and the administration on the budgeting process for the next couple of years. We have the budget in place for this current year that’s going to keep us up to level, barring any unexpected injuries or any other retirements.”

The City Council also …

  • Approved Troup’s appointment of 7th Ward alderman Ben Uzelac and Quincy Police Chief Rob Copley to the City of Quincy and Adams County Joint Emergency Telephone Systems Board for three-year terms.
  • Approved paying an invoice from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for annual NPDES permit fees for $72,500.
  • Approved raffles conducted by the Adams County Farm Bureau Foundation until Aug. 12 and by the Quincy Knights of Columbus Council 583 until June 30, 2022. 

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