A Small-Town Fire Chief Juggles Big Responsibilities

Greg Bock is the fire chief in Alton, Ill. i i

Greg Bock is the fire chief in Alton, Ill. He has worked all over the world as a firefighter and helped in the relief effort in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but he says he always comes home to Alton. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
Greg Bock is the fire chief in Alton, Ill.

Greg Bock is the fire chief in Alton, Ill. He has worked all over the world as a firefighter and helped in the relief effort in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, but he says he always comes home to Alton.

David Gilkey/NPR
The firehouse in Alton, Ill. i i

The firehouse in Alton, Ill. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
The firehouse in Alton, Ill.

The firehouse in Alton, Ill.

David Gilkey/NPR
A fire truck is ready and waiting on the floor of the firehouse i i

A fire truck is ready and waiting on the floor of the firehouse in Alton, Ill. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
A fire truck is ready and waiting on the floor of the firehouse

A fire truck is ready and waiting on the floor of the firehouse in Alton, Ill.

David Gilkey/NPR

David Greene is on the road looking for leaders who are not necessarily politicians. His search led him to the firehouse in the Mississippi River community of Alton, Ill., where the chief juggles administrative duties, emergency calls and the pressures of being in the public eye.

Greene tells Renee Montagne he is now in the Ozarks, after traveling through Chicago and St. Louis. But while he was in Illinois, he visited Alton and spent the evening with the fire chief.

The firehouse was pretty quiet, Greene says: "A dozen or so firefighters were on duty, but they were in the sleeping quarters, so it was just us and the chief."

But it isn't always quiet. Although Alton is a small town — 30,000 people or so — it has had large fires. In fact, two firefighters were killed in the 1990s.

Greg Bock took over the department this past April, and his first job wasn't easy. There were budget cuts, so he had to lay off three people. He's managing people who are risking their lives, and he also has to deal with the media and the public.

Bock's leadership is what led his son, Gary Bock Jr., to recommend his father for the "Take Me To Your Leader" series.

"The reason I wrote you guys is because I do think my dad is an excellent example of a public servant. Being a good leader, I believe, is going beyond your 9-to-5 job," Greg Bock Jr. said.

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