Janke back in charge of Howard public safety
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – Ed Janke has returned as the village’s public safety director nearly three years after the person who replaced him began the position.
Janke, who became chief deputy of the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office in 2016, came back to Howard earlier this year to replace Don Phillips, who had taken over from Janke.
“I’m been in public safety now for 36 years,” Janke said. “I started my career with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office and eventually came out here (to Howard). I actually left the village of Howard to go to (the Oconto County Sheriff’s Office), largely to take care of my family. Chief Phillips retired and my father passed away, so consequently that’s why I came back to the village of Howard.”
As Howard’s director of public safety, Janke said his responsibilities include managing the fire department, assisting in the administration of the village’s contract with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services and the contract with County Rescue for emergency medical services.
“My responsibilities are to work with all the agencies to ensure that we have the highest level of service here,” he said.
Janke, who previously worked as the village’s public safety director for about seven years, said the systems and processes in Howard largely remain unchanged since he last held the position.
“We are certainly in very good condition to move everything forward positively,” he said. “I think philosophically the organization has not changed in perspectives regarding the vision and mission of the organization or the values.”
With Howard allocated to have around 50 firefighters, including those who are part-time and paid-on-call, Janke said about half of his time is committed to the fire department because of the staffing model.
“It requires more work when you don’t have the same people showing up each day to go to work,” he said. “Our staffing models and things are dependent on ensuring that our part-time and paid-on-call staff are highly motivated.”
Given the growth Howard has experienced, Janke said the village’s resources are stretched to be able to do more things.
“The challenge will always be to make sure that we are doing our jobs to the best of our ability, answering the issues that we’re facing and making sure that we’re resourced to be able to do the job,” he said.
Janke said the village is now involved in doing a risk assessment process, in which Howard will compare itself to other public safety departments regarding staffing levels.
“From a law enforcement and a fire perspective, we continue going down that path and making those assessments, because without using science and data to look at our issues, it just becomes a very subjective process,” he said. “I could say we need 10 firefighters on shift, and four police officers or six police officers or what have you, but that would all be subjective.”
Janke said the assessment should take a couple of months to complete and put together a standards-of-coverage document.
“Once we get that done, what we intend to do as fire department (is) seek accreditation,” he said. “We’re looking to become an accredited department.”
Janke noted the accreditation would recognize the fire department has achieved the standard as put forth by the national Center for Public Safety Excellence.
“That’s really our big, audacious goal is to achieve that within the next year and a half,” he said. “It requires a great deal of work on our part. We compare our operations and adjust accordingly with the national standards, and move forward.”
Now having returned as Howard’s public safety chief, Janke said he would like to remain in the position for at least the next five years.
“I’m very, very excited to be back,” he said. “I love the village of Howard. I’ve always loved the village of Howard… It’s just a very friendly, very exciting community, and there’s a lot of great things happening in Howard. As far as I’m concerned, Howard is the greatest place to live in Brown County.”
Janke said Howard is now looking at initiatives that will include a new operational perspective he hopes to roll out this fall related to how the village delivers its fire suppression services.
“It will have a very positive impact for the community in terms of not only our ability to suppress fire, but consequent loss from water damage and things like that,” he said.