New West Peoria Fire Trustee Hopes City Can Move On

By Maggie Vespa

June 15, 2011 Updated Jun 15, 2011 at 10:23 PM CDT

As you may remember, Tuesday night sparks flew at West Peoria's city council meeting, when council members voted not to reappoint 14-year Fire Protection District trustee Todd Baker to the position.

Now the man they did appoint is speaking out, in hopes of helping what he calls a 'divided city' move on.

They came out by the dozen, ready to speak up.

"The basic requirement for trustee is a willingness to serve, which Todd has done for the past 14 years," said one citizen.

Another said, "Why would we want to jeopardize a fire department that to my knowledge we are not critical of?"

But Tuesday night, following a lengthy executive session, West Peoria city council members put an end to Todd Baker's 14 year run on the city's fire protection district.

Instead they voted 5-1, with 2 abstaining, to appoint 48 year-old Jeff Maurice, a 20 year department veteran.

"I still have ties to the fire department. I was born and raised up here," he said.

Maurice, who was not at the meeting, says he's wanted the position for years, but not like this.

"There wasn't a vendetta or anything like that. It was an opportunity, and I chose to accept it," he said.

Tuesday's decision came to a head after years of heated disagreement between West Peoria mayor Jim Dillon and Todd Baker.

Add to that a firey feud between Dillon and Fire Chief Bob Stecher, after Dillon claimed Stecher had threatened him.

Maurice says it casts a shadow on his appointment, but hopes residents remember he wasn't involved in the decision or the political firestorm.

"You know I really wish things could have been worked out. Then again, I'm not going to deny myself an opportunity to do something good for the fire department or the community."

A step forward he hopes, as the ashes from Tuesday's firey meeting continue to cool.

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