Damon Schuldt

Damon Schuldt

KANKAKEE — Kankakee Fire Chief Damon Schuldt is out as the top fire official in Kankakee when the city’s new administration takes over in May.

As a result, Schuldt has resigned from the fire department. His last day will be Friday.

Schuldt, 58, a city firefighter since Dec. 18, 1990, and the department’s chief since May 2017, told the Daily Journal late Tuesday evening that he was informed by Mayor-elect Chris Curtis on Monday afternoon that he was not his choice to lead the fire department.

Schuldt actually had been the department’s chief since late April 2017 when he became interim chief following the resignation of then-interim chief Phil Perkins.

“[Curtis] said he was going to put someone else in,” Schuldt said. “He didn’t give me any reasons.”

Schuldt said he also was not told who would be stepping into the department’s leadership position. Schuldt said his contract expires with the city on Friday, April 30.

It is common for an incoming mayor to make changes in leadership positions.

Curtis, who defeated first-term Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong in the April 6 municipal election, has previously announced he would be seeking a new person to lead the police department.

Curtis was not available for comment Tuesday evening.

Schuldt noted he was well aware his job could be in jeopardy when Curtis took over the city’s leadership role.

“I knew I could be subjected to the political winds,” he said.

The department is budgeted for 48 officers. At the upcoming Kankakee City Council meeting on Monday, a new firefighter is expected to be hired, but with Schuldt’s departure, the department will be at 46 officers.

“I’m not bitter. I’ve had a good career. I’ve enjoyed serving the public,” he said. “... I will miss it.”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.