Arlington Heights Fire Chief Glenn Ericksen (Village of Arlington Heights, Handout / January 14, 2014)

Having gone from dispatcher to fire chief in his nearly 40 years with the village, Glenn Ericksen will step down from the Arlington Heights Fire Department for a new job with the Illinois Mutual Aid Box Alarm System.

"I've basically held just about every position here, and gone really from the bottom to the top," said Ericksen, 58. "It's been a fun ride."

It was announced Monday that he's retiring from the Arlington Heights Fire Department on Feb. 13. He's leaving his $139,711 salary behind, but will be eligible for up to 75 percent of that as his state pension, village officials said.

Ericksen will take the role of section chief of administration with the Illinois Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, or MABAS. The full-time job comes with a $58,000 salary but includes no benefits, said Jay Reardon, chief executive officer of MABAS.

Headquartered in Wheeling, the intergovernmental state MABAS program includes divisions of fire departments and emergency personnel who provide back-up response with manpower and equipment for major incidents. It's funded by state and federal grants, as well as membership dues.

Arlington Heights is an original member of MABAS. About 1,100 of the 1,200 fire departments in the state belong to one of the group's 68 divisions, according to MABAS' count.

Ericksen has been involved with MABAS for years, serving on different committees, Reardon said. His new job will be overseeing administrative aspects of the agency, including purchases, grants and finances.

"I've known Glenn a long time," Reardon said. "He is a very competent professional with very, very good management skills, programs as well as leadership."

The retiring fire chief said he wasn't looking to leave Arlington Heights, but was excited about the opening at MABAS, which he called a new challenge.

"It's a position that still keeps me involved in the fire service," Ericksen said. "It's a position that involves the fire services in the entire state."

Arlington Heights Village Manager Bill Dixon said he will name an interim fire chief from within the department in the next month and will launch a state-wide search for a permanent replacement.

Ericksen's top two deputies are Bernie Lyons, deputy fire chief for administration, and Ken Koeppen, deputy fire chief for operations.

Koeppen last month was hailed a hero in the village for providing immediate aid to an Arlington Heights police officer who was shot in the face during an incident that later evolved into a hostage standoff and fatal shooting of the suspect by police.

Ericksen is a 39-year veteran of the fire department, which has 110 employees. The chief started as a fire alarm operator, or dispatcher, in 1974, officials said, and had been deputy fire chief for operations before Dixon named him fire chief in 2004.

"I think it's a credit to Chief Ericksen and the fire department that we will likely have some strong candidates from within the department," Dixon said. "I would call it an external search and I expect it to be geographically limited."

Village officials credited Ericksen with getting a federal grant to hire nine additional firefighters during his tenure, as well as getting a SAFE Communities designation from the National Safety Council.

The village also added an Emergency Operations Center to deal with disasters under Ericksen's leadership.

Ericksen lives in Arlington Heights and is married with two adult daughters. He said growing up in Buffalo Grove, where his father was a volunteer fireman, he always wanted to be a firefighter. He said he'll miss most the people and the camaraderie, but that "the time to leave is now."

"I'm not going to be that far away," he said. "It's not like I'm moving to Florida. I'm just one town over."

Dixon said there's no timeline to fill the position and that he was surprised by the retirement.

"I was very surprised when Chief Ericksen told me of his intent. There had been no indication that he might be leaving," Dixon said. "I'm happy for him but sad to see him go."

saho@tribune.com