Longtime City of Superior Fire Chief, Finance Director Retiring

Mayor Paine Congratulates Retirees, Says Change Can Bring Fresh Perspective

SUPERIOR, Wis. – Longtime Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger and Finance Director Jean Vito are retiring after more than two decades each with the city.

Panger, a 26-year veteran of the fire department, made the announcement official to councilors and Mayor Jim Paine Tuesday.

Panger told FOX 21 he has reached the age of retirement at 53 years old and says the timing is right for him and his family to leave his firefighting career with the city.

Panger joined the department in 1993 as a firefighter.  He became chief at the end of 2012.  Panger will retire on Sept. 30.

Below is the text of Panger’s notice to councilors and the mayor:

“I am notifying you of my intention to retire on September 30th, 2019. I would like to first acknowledge what an honor in has been to work the best job there is and to serve for the people of Superior. I will always carry fond memories of the relationships I have been gifted from this city. To the City Leaders of the past and present, thank you for entrusting your confidence and supporting our Fire Department with its mission to protect the lives, property, and the environment of this great City. I consider myself truly fortunate to have been able to play a role at every level of our department, working with an amazing team to try and make a positive impact. Any successes we have had within the Fire Department have only come as result of the efforts of all of you to embrace and support our mission. After 26 years of service, my family and I now look forward to the day I can officially stand down and enjoy the next chapter in our lives.”

Meanwhile, longtime Finance Director Jean Vito is also retiring after almost 27 years in the city’s Finance Department.

Vito planned to retire at the end of 2019, but she recently decided to move that date up to July 22 after becoming eligible for retirement in May of this year.

Vito put her notice of retirement in the morning after a heated council meeting where councilors voted 6-4 to censure Councilor Jenny Van Sickle over negative social media comments about City Attorney Frog Prell. Mayor Paine ended that censure with the use of his first-ever veto power.

Vito joined the city in 1993 as Assistant Director of Finance until 2001 when she was promoted to Finance Director after former director Tim Nelson left due to medical reasons, according to Vito.  In 2014, Mayor Bruce Hagen added Senior Administrative Officer to her title (along with Finance Director) as he had tapped into her expanded guidance for city operations.

“There has been so much good that has happened. We increased the city’s bond rating by 5 steps during my time here and other than a planned reserve draw down in the mid-2000s we have never run a general fund deficit for these 27 years. I am truly grateful to the citizens of Superior for my time spent as their director of finance,” Vito told FOX 21 Tuesday.

Vito’s Assistant Finance Director, Chris Bronson, is also leaving the department to take on an opportunity with Hartel’s/DBJ Disposal in Proctor, according to the Superior Telegram.

Bronson has been with the Finance Department for 10 years.  In his first three years, he acted as the city’s Internal Auditor before transitioning to Assistant Finance Director for the past seven years, according to Vito.

Mayor Jim Paine told FOX 21 Tuesday he wishes the departing staff well and thanked them for their contributions to the city.  Paine said things will be more stressful for him and councilors with setting the budget for 2020, but he said change in leadership can bring an opportunity to re-evaluate departments like Finance and Fire to make them even better going forward.

“This is a chance for us to look at our fire department and to look at our finance department and say, is this the direction that we still want to be going? What changes do we want to make? What vision do we have for the future of this administration? You don’t get a lot of opportunities like this,” Paine said.

Paine hopes to have a new finance director hired by mid-August and a fire chief on board before Panger departs in September.

Categories: News, Political, Wisconsin