Rockford Ald. D. William “Bill” Robertson, I-14, who served as Rockford Fire Chief for 17 years before entering politics, died Saturday morning after an extended battle with cancer.
Flags on city buildings were ordered flown at half staff in his honor.
“He was dedicated to the community in his role of Fire Chief, as a member of the Rockford Fire Department for 37 years, and as an alderman,” said current Fire Chief Derek Bergsten. “Our thoughts go out to his entire family in this time of great sorrow.”
Elected to the City Council as an independent, Robertson headed the Democratic Caucus of the City Council. His passion for strong local government allowed him to build strong relationships in both parties.
“The city has lost a great leader,” said Ald. Carl Wasco, D-4. “We’ve lost a great friend. His wife and family have lost a great husband, father, grandfather. We will truly miss Bill.”
Third Ward Ald. Doug Mark, leader of the Republican caucus, added, “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 was promoted to chief in August 1991 and retired in April 2008. He led the department through advances that earned the Rockford Fire Department several awards of distinction. He was always quick to give credit to the men and women in his department who “do a fantastic job of keeping our citizens as the focus of their attention.”
Robertson, a Rockford native and East High School graduate, graduated from Rock Valley College and Southern Illinois University. After serving in the United States Marine Corp, Robertson joined the Rockford Fire Department in 1972 and worked his way through the department, serving in all ranks and many positions.
In February 1990, Robertson assumed command of the Training Academy and was promoted to District Chief, where he stayed until his promotion to Chief of the Department.
"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,” said Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. “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 non-profit boards and community initiatives. He had a passion for his work, and he was a great communicator. He would always work to build consensus."
Robertson was an active Rotarian and served on the boards of SwedishAmerican Hospital, Shelter Care Ministries and Youth Services Network, among other community activities.
Funeral arrangements are pending.