Evanston Fire Chief Greg Klaiber is retiring from the city next month to take a new job as director of emergency management at Northwestern University.

Klaiber is a 31-year veteran of the department and has served as chief since 2010.

“Greg Klaiber has been an outstanding fire chief. He has served the Evanston community with distinction his entire career. His understanding of the neighborhoods that make up the City of Evanston has contributed to the very community-focused agency the Evanston Fire Department has become,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz in a statement.

Klaiber said he’s had an incredible career with the Evanston department, and “it’s a bittersweet feeling knowing it’s coming to an end.”

“I have had the privilege to lead the men and women of the Evanston Fire Department over the last six years. I marvel at their professionalism and the work they do each and every day. I will miss it very much,” he added.

Klaiber is an Evanston resident and a graduate of Evanston Township High School. He joined the department as a firefighter/paramedic and also served as a captain, division chief and deputy chief..

Klaiber  was a member of the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 school board from 1999-2003, is a trustee of the Evanston Fourth of July Association, and was an active participant in Evanston’s Youth Baseball Association.

He holds a master’s degree in cardiac rehabilitation from Northeastern Illinois University and a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Illinois.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Chief’s Pension Payments

    Will Chief Klaiber draw a pension while serving in his new private sector job, and if so, what is the annual cost to Evanston taxpayers? I like Chief Klaiber and wish him well, and he would be availing himself of what is rightfully his by contract. Still, we should be aware of what we're on the hook for and mindful of how our laws are written. I think the spirit of offering a pension is to compensate a retiree whose ability to continue at the same productivity is waning due to advancing age, as opposed to someone who is in the prime of their career and drawing a full salary elsewhere.  Is it true that several of our previous chiefs (of police) have gone on to continue their leadership careers in other well paying municipal and school district jobs while simultaneously drawing pensions from our city?

    1. I believe you have answered

      I believe you have answered all of your own questions.  If you're not happy with the current pension scheme, the proper discourse is to continue what you're doing by raising awareness, ensuring voters are fully engaged.  Otherwise, this particular type of activity is certainly not new nor necessarily discouraged — thus leading to ever larger pension obligations to municipalities. 

      Good for them if they can benefit from the system in place, although it does likely take the job of a young professional looking to support their family and not on a pension.

    2. Pensions
      Yep…the last one did that! Collecting a huge pension, and another huge salary…….others do it as well…….

      1. Fair Game…. But
        It does take a job away from the market and there may be someone out there with NO earned income that could use a paycheck. Even if this role requires experience, a promote from within would create an opening somewhere down the line that could be filled by a no-current-income job seeker. It seems these roles sometimes go to people who are connected. It’s all in who you know.

    3. Public Pensions in Evanston

      Chief Klaiber is an exemplary public official and has done a fantastic job as Fire Chief in Evanston. I appreciate his work and the work of all fire, police and other public employees in Evanston.

      To the question "Public Record" raised on pensions, it's important to understand the issues and use facts in this discussion.

      Public pensions are defined benefit pensions and are subject to many assumptions which can be "adjusted" and "manipulated." For example, people are living longer today, yet mortality tables haven't fully "caught up" with actual experiences. (and remember, given spousal benefits, it's the age of the ultimate survivor that really matters since the pension gets paid out). Wage growth estimates tend to get understated.

      And the biggest challenge going forward is that investment returns will likely lag woefully behind assumed rates of return. 

      The other major problem with the defined benefit plan structure is that annual contributions into the pension funds are NOT mandated, so public officials "promise" the benefits, but they don't want to "fund" them. This historical lack of funding plagues not only Evanston, but Chicago, the State of Illinois and almost every municipality and state in our country.

      So not only are the real costs of pensions accounted for properly, they're not funded properly either. All taxpayers are accountable for this deficit. Talk to a homeowner in Chicago and they will tell you what just happened to their tax bill.

      Specific to Evanston, the former Police Chief, Frank Kaminski "retired" at age 54, and is now the Police Chief in Park Ridge. He's collecting his $100,000 + Evanston Police Pension and he's getting paid an annual salary of over $100,000 by Park Ridge.

      The former Fire Chief, Alan Berkowsky, retired from Evanston in 2010 and is now the Fire Chief in Winnetka. He's collecting his $100,000 + Evanston pension and getting paid over $100,000 as Fire Chief in Winnetka.

      In 2012 Evanston Police Commander, Tom Guenther, "retired" to become Chief of Police for the College of Lake County. He's also collecting a $100,000 + pension and is getting paid over $100,000 salary in his current role.

      There are more examples, and this pattern exists in other communities for understandable reasons. Current state legislation allows this pattern to continue. And who wouldn't do the same?

      The economic incentives for someone to retire from their current job, start receiving their pension, and take another job and earn a 2nd pension are very powerful. AND It's completely legal.

      But this practice does raise questions to consider.

      What is the role of a pension?

      Should people be allowed to receive a pension and get another job?

      Is the "retirement age" established appropriately given how much longer people are living?

      Is the current situation "equitable" for all citizens of Evanston and Illinois?

      Are we fully accounting for the real cost of this pension benefit and are we willing to fund it?

      I will reiterate my utmost appreciation for the work of all public employees, but we must understand the true cost of compensation, and how it impacts our community and state.

  2. Your vote. Your choice.
    The Evanston fire chief before Klaiber retired in his mid 50s and now is working in the same capacity in another Illinois municipality, earning another government union pension. I think that’s called double dipping.

    The same goes for the former Evanston police chief. And guess who picks up the tab? Taxpayers.

    The Illinois government union pension system is unsustainable and is driving away businesses and private sector employees out of Illinois. It is a death spiral.

    Remember, there’s a reason why Democrat politicians receive more than 90 percent of all government union campaign donations. The best and easiest way to BEGIN to solve this oncoming government pension train wreck is NOT to vote for any Democrat.

    I might add that the Democratic party receives far more in corporate campaign donations than Republicans.

    Your vote. Your choice.

    1. It’s not double dipping

      Al, you have your facts a bit off. Public employees are prohibited, by law, from double dipping into the state pension. If a public sector employee is receiving their pension, they can not contribute to the pension in another capacity. So, what many communities have done is enrolled people in this capacity into 401k's. So therefore, the second "career" the person has does not have any effect on the state pension. So Chief Kaminski and Berkowski would be receiving the same pension regardless of if they went to work again. In Chief Klaiber's situation, he is going to work for a private organization that has their own retirement benefits. He is not eligible to be on the state pension working for NU. So, no matter if the retiree goes an gets a $100k plus job or works as a greeter for Walmart, the impact on the pension is the same.

  3. Pissed off about pensions?

    I am astonished at the many comments about the pensions that Evanston's hard working civil servants receive for decades of service keeping our community safe… Chief Klaiber entered into a contract with this community which included among other things, pension benefits. What he does after putting 31 years of dedicated service should be none of our business.

    As a lifelong Evanstonian and a multiple parcel taxpayer, I say good on him for leveraging his dedication and experience and landing a great job after retiring from his leadership role in our community… Chief Klaiber deserves it and has earned it!

    If you don't like the (pension) system and think it's unfair, propose a more egalitarian solution and act for reform.

    Respectfully, Brian G. Becharas

    1. Agreed — it’s not the fault

      Agreed — it's not the fault of the individual who is simply taking full advantage of the system in place.  That said — I believe all the comments to which you are 'astonished' are doing just what you say should be done — and that is raise awareness to the facts. 

      Aside from the fact a retired individual earning their full pension until death is continuing to work and essentially take a job away from another individual not yet collecting their pension, this current scheme is also working to put these cities, and this state, further into a fiscal hole. 

      All the articles you are reading around recent property tax increases are directly linked to this very problem — the costs and debt load is simply too much to bear, and the taxpayers — sounds like you are a multi-payer — will be asked for more.  If that's ok for you — great — continue to vote your conscience.  This dialogue is more around full transparency.

      1. Base for pension benefits

        Almost everyone will change jobs several times during their career. Pension [payments and other benefits] calculations should be based on fraction of a 'full-term' basis. E.g. ages 24-65=41 years. If you work for an employer for five years and then retire, you pension and benefits would be 5/41 of what would be a full-employment. Thus if the fire, police chief or anyone else wants to leave after 20 years and take another job, he would only get 20/41 of the package he would expect at 65. Police and firemen do hard work, but like football players, can not expect to do the same work until 65 and thus should not have a 'full' career set as 20 years. Just like football players must prepare for that career to be over in X years and plan for the rest of their working life [coaching, business, law, etc.], the police and firefighters must have the future in mind—department management, business, safety consulting, etc,.–as the last 41-X years.

      2. Issue is transparency and disclosure

        I only recently became aware of the costs of benefits provided to public employees.

        Most of the discussion usually surrounds salaries, but the cost of providing health care, pensions and other benefits needs to be calculated and considered in contract negotiations.

        The total compensation should be disclosed and full transparency should be required.

        The salary growth in the public sector has been growing at over 2 times the private sector over the last 10 years and the benefits in the public sector including health care and pensions are substantially more generous than in the private sector.

        It would seem from other posts and articles in the media that more attention is being focused on pensions and healthcare costs given the recent big real estate tax increase in Chicago to pay for pensions.

        Evanston taxpayers have a right to know.

        Full disclosure and transparency should be proactively provided instead of requiring citizens to file FOIA requests.



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