City mourns the loss of alderman, retired fire chief
Online Staff Report
Elected officials and staff members of the City of Rockford were saddened Feb. 23 to learn that Bill Robertson, alderman of the 14th Ward (I) and retired City of Rockford Fire Chief, had passed away that morning at approximately 5:30 a.m.
By late morning, flags at City Hall, the Fire Administration Building, the Public Safety Building and fire stations throughout the city had been lowered to half-staff as news spread throughout the organization that “the city family has lost a council leader this morning with the passing of Alderman and retired Fire Chief Bill Robertson.”
Robertson was elected as an Independent to the 14th Ward seat in 2009 and was known as a passionate speaker who worked diligently to ensure the needs of both his ward and the city as a whole were met.
Though he was elected as an Independent, Robertson was the chairman of the Democratic caucus, where his passion for strong local government allowed him to build strong relationships in both parties.
Fourth Ward Ald. Carl Wasco (D), who counted Robertson as both a fellow alderman and a friend, stated: “The city has lost a great leader. We’ve lost a great friend. His wife and family have lost a great husband, father, grandfather. We will truly miss Bill.”
Ald. Doug Mark, R-3, and leader of the Republican caucus, echoed Ald. Wasco’s words.
“Bill Robertson was truly a great individual and friend,” Mark said. “He was committed to his family, community, fire department and city council. His service to others and love of the City of Rockford will be greatly missed, and he will always be remembered as a great leader. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this time.”
Robertson began his career as an elected official after his retirement from his position as the city’s fire chief in April 2008. Beginning his tenure as chief Aug. 6, 1991, Robertson had led the department through advances that allowed the Rockford Fire Department to receive several awards of distinction. In sharing his thoughts on his career with the Rockford Fire Department, Chief Robertson was always quick to point out that the men and women in his department “Do a fantastic job of keeping our citizens as the focus of their attention.”
Robertson believed strongly in the traditions and legacy of the Rockford Fire Department. He was proud of the department’s many accomplishments, and maintained close ties with his fellow retirees as well as with current fire chief, Derek Bergsten.
“The passing of Ald. Bill Robertson is a terrible loss for his wife, Susan, daughters and entire family,” Bergsten said. “He was dedicated to the community in his role of fire chief and as a member of the Rockford Fire Department for 37 years and as an alderman. Our thoughts go out to his entire family in this time of great sorrow.”
Robertson, a Rockford native and East High School graduate, received his associate’s of art degree from Rock Valley College and his bachelor of science degree from Southern Illinois University. After serving in the United States Marine Corp, Robertson joined the Rockford Fire Department in 1972. He worked his way through the department, serving in all ranks and many positions, including inspector in the Fire Prevention Division; driver/engineer; lieutenant; and captain. In February 1990, Robertson assumed command of the Training Academy, where he was promoted to district chief and stayed at that assignment until his promotion to chief of the fire department.
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) recognized the loss to the community in his words during an interview Feb. 23.
“Chief Robertson had a tremendous impact on the outstanding culture of customer service and community support that is the hallmark of the Rockford Fire Department,” Morrissey said. “Under Chief Robertson’s leadership, he raised education and training standards, he drove paramedic certification for all firefighters, and he began the department’s successful effort to become nationally accredited. He was an outstanding leader as a fire chief, as a council member, and as a civic leader on many nonprofit boards and community initiatives. He had a passion for his work, and he was a great communicator. He would always work to build consensus.
“Bill will be missed greatly,” Morrissey added. “We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends at the city and throughout our community.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Posted Feb. 25, 2013
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