Phillips retiring, Janke returning as Howard public safety director
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Upon the village’s public safety director/fire chief retiring at the end of January, the person Don Phillips replaced three years ago is returning to replace him.
Phillips, who was recognized with a proclamation at Monday’s Howard village board meeting, noted he has been involved in public safety for approximately 37 years and is now looking forward to traveling with his wife and spending time with his grandchildren.
He started his firefighting career with the Green Bay Fire Department, where he spent more than a quarter century and became the department’s assistant chief.
Phillips then joined the Howard Fire Department and served as its assistant chief from 2009 to 2014.
He also did public safety consulting and held short stints as a police chief and fire chief in Oconto.
After Ed Janke left in 2016 as Howard’s public safety director to become the chief deputy of the Oconto County Sheriff’s Department, Phillips returned to become the village’s public safety director.
Now Janke, who made an unsuccessful bid last year for Oconto County sheriff, will once again be taking over as Howard’s public safety director in February upon Phillips retiring.
Janke was selected for the position by the village’s Police and Fire Commission.
“It’s going to be a rather smooth transition,” Phillips said of Janke taking over as the public safety director.
Village President Bert McIntyre said Phillips was able to fill in as Howard’s public safety director when the village had a real need upon Janke becoming Oconto County’s chief deputy.
McIntyre said the village is fortunate to have Janke return as someone who knows the system.
“If anything, he’s overqualified,” McIntyre said of Janke.
In addition to being in charge of the fire department, Phillips noted the village’s public safety director manages the work load of the three directed enforcement officers Howard contracts for law enforcement with the Brown County Sheriff’s Department.
Over the course of his career in public safety, Phillips said firefighting has developed better training and equipment with policies in place to spell out what needs to be done and who reports to whom while acting as directed by a trained officer.
In addition to the 240 hours of initial training now required before a firefighter may enter a burning building, he noted the Howard Fire Department holds two training sessions a month of three hours per session with some being in the classroom and some being hands-on exercises.
Phillips said the advancement in technology for firefighting has come at a cost with the expense to equip a firefighter now running from $6,000 to $10,000, compared to $300 to $400 decades ago.
During his firefighting career, Phillips noted he led the investigative team with the Green Bay Fire Department when Lt. Arnie Wolff died and firefighter Jo Brinkley-Chaudoir was injured in August 2006 after responding to a house fire where the floor collapsed.
“It was a very difficult time,” Phillips said.
Phillips said firefighting in Howard involves five full-time staff members, who primarily work weekday shifts from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., along with part-time or paid-on-call firefighters for a department authorized 50 uniformed personnel.
Given the amount of population growth seen in the village, Phillips said there has been “some growing pains” with the fire department trying to keep up with that growth, such as with new apartment buildings being constructed.
He said the fire department is going to need to grow with the village.