A member of the Bolingbrook Police Department for 27 years, Tom Ross, will now lead both the Police and Fire Departments as the Director of Public Safety.
Deputy Director since 2008, he was tapped to take the next step at the announcement of the retirement of former Director Kevin McCarthy, who retired after 32 years on the force.
Starting out in patrol, Ross worked his way through the ranks taking on various roles in the department.
“I am lucky to inherit two solid departments,” said Ross. “It is a great opportunity and I am very fortunate.”
Right now, Ross, said his number one priority is listening.
“I want to hear from everyone—from the rookie, six months on the job as well as the battalion chief who has 25 years,” said Ross. “By listening to all levels, you get a good sense of what is really going on.”
Though he says he is fortunate to have the history of working with the majority of the team for years and believes it will be a seamless transition, he is meeting with each shift, each crew, and each firehouse.
“I am just out talking to everyone to make sure we are providing the very best product for our residents,” said Ross. “Our police are the finest and our fire department is second to none.”
After all, public safety is all about service, said Ross, whose upbringing revolved around it, his dad a deacon, his mom, a nurse. An Irish-Catholic family with siblings who all who went into public service themselves as firemen, policeman and a teacher.
“There was never a time I can remember not wanting to be a police officer. We were always taught that it was an admirable goal to be in public safety,” said Ross, whose main philosophy remains in line with that of the previous chief.
He explains that at the heart of the department’s job is resolving social and civic issues that can done hopefully before a problem begins.
“A great part of our job is getting people in touch with the right government resource,” said Ross. “If someone had a problem, they likely come to use first and it is our job to help them.”
Ross said his door is always open as are the phone lines and is what sets this village apart—the open communication—that rests not only in the police and fire department but throughout the village.
As a management style, he is on board with the role of team leader, but emphasizing the team and would rather “lead from the middle.”
“We have wonderful leaders in their own right that are in each department with resumes that are downright impressive… In meetings, I don’t sit at the head of the table, I sit with everyone—we all learn from each other,” said Ross. “We have an abundance of quality people.”
He believes in collaborative cooperation and recognizes that not everyone will agree.
“We are not group that uses a rubber stamp or are ‘yes men’,” said Ross. “Sometime we have to push the line and see what really works, but we work together.”
He sees one of the biggest challenges of the fire department is keeping up with the growth of an aging population, ensuring prevention and public outreach is paramount.
One the police side too, public outreach, is critical, keeping in touch with residents, and is considered a priority. Through public events like the Jubilee, etc., a police presence there is meant to be inviting the public to strike up conversation in part to develop an open relationship in the community.
Finances also are a concern for Ross heading into his new role.
“It’s expensive to run a fire and police department,” said Ross. “Salary, benefits and pensions make up the bulk of the budget. As everyone else, it is a challenge to live within your means. We have to make sure be get the biggest bang for our buck. Fire trucks and maintenance are expensive, we have to stay on top of that and stay ahead of the curve.”
He has also spent time teaching police management and public safety, traveling across the United States, making it a point to also check in and learn from other departments.
“From those experiences, I’ve learned we’re in pretty good shape—we’re doing things right,” said Ross. “In fact, people come to us, asking for our input, which we gladly give.”
Ross is a Bolingbrook resident, married with two children, 21 an 19.