When John Rupkey starts something, he sticks with it, which means the new Monticello Fire and Rescue chief may hold that post for a while.
Recently named to replace the retiring Rick Dubson, Rupkey has been on Monticello’s volunteer service since 1995, most recently as assistant fire chief. He is also a captain on the Cisco Fire Department.
His day job is as the pharmacy director for Senior Care Pharmacy in Monticello, along with its predecessors, something he has done since 1994.
Rupkey’s interest in fire departments dates back to his youth, when his family would visit an uncle who was a volunteer fireman in Troy, Michigan.
“As a kid he would take us to the firehouse, and I always enjoyed doing that and looked up to him. It was always pretty cool,” he said. “I always thought when I got to small town, I would like to volunteer to be a fireman.”
That chance came when he moved from his Chicago area upbringings to become pharmacy director of VitaLink in Monticello, and though the company has changed names and locations in Monticello, it is a post he holds to this day.
He is proud of the local fire department, which has increased its call volume from 150 to 450 annually in his 25 years on the force, mostly as first responders to the scene.
“We have a great department. We have great firefighters on the department. I enjoy being with them,” commented Rupkey. “People just don’t volunteer for stuff like they did, but the people that are there are pretty dedicated. We help people at times when they can’t help themselves. You hope some day when we need that help that there will be people there for us too.”
Speaking of volunteers, like many small-town fire departments, Monticello could use more. It is currently five short of the 20 it likes to have on the roster.
“We could really use the help,” said Rupkey, pointing to the increase in calls. “We need more people to volunteer.”
Those interested can pick up applications at the Monticello Municipal Building. Completed forms will be reviewed by the fire department screening committee.
Rupkey, who took over as fire chief on Feb. 1, thinks he learned from the best in Rick Dubson.
“I’ve learned a lot from him (Rick), and he’s been a great chief. He’s taken this department forward, and my job is to continue to take it forward,” he said.
The new chief is also complimentary of the two other fire department heads he worked with at Cisco – Ron Weishaar and Matt Wilhelm.
Rupkey earned his high school diploma from Maine East High School in 1976, followed by his pharmacy degree in 1981 from the University of Illinois-Chicago. He later completed his MBA from Keller Graduate School.
He his wife Terri have three daughters.