By Zachary Daum
The Mascoutah Fire Department bid farewell to three esteemed leaders, Fire Chief Joe Zinck, Deputy Chief Greg Moll, and Assistant Fire Chief Lance Surmeier, in a heartfelt passing of the torch party and ceremony on Monday, January 1. There was a high attendance, so much so that one of the fire trucks had to be moved out of the building to make room.
The gathering commenced with a warm offering of donuts and coffee for attendees, setting the tone for the bittersweet occasion. Newly appointed Fire Chief Rob Stookey expressed gratitude for the retiring trio’s invaluable contributions to the department. Stookey remarked, “They’ve been lots of help to the fire department. We appreciate everything they’ve done. It’s exciting for the fire department. It’s a new generation coming in.”
Chief Stookey introduced the incoming leadership team, including Deputy Chief Paul Heffner and Assistant Chief Ryan Haas, emphasizing the dedication of the department’s younger members. “Thank you guys who put this (fire department) in great shape,” added Stookey, underlining the positive trajectory ahead.
Retiring Chief Joe Zinck took the podium, expressing gratitude for the overwhelming support and acknowledging the forthcoming changes within the department. Zinck recognized Chief Stookey’s significant role, stating, “It’s been a great ride, and I can’t thank Rob enough for all he’s done with things because he did a lot. Stuff I never could have kept up with. It was time for me to go.”
In his speech, Zinck underscored the vital support received from taxing bodies, thanking the city and Rural Fire District. He also extended appreciation to the new firefighters and celebrated the milestone of hiring a full-time employee, a first in the department’s history.
The ceremony concluded with a poignant tradition as retiring members participated in the tossing of their uniforms through the fire department doors, symbolizing their transition into retirement. The symbolic act marked the end of an era for these dedicated firefighters, leaving a remarkable legacy for the Mascoutah Fire Department.
As the department embraces new leadership and a fresh chapter, the community expressed gratitude for the tireless service and commitment of Chief Zinck, Deputy Chief Moll, and Assistant Chief Surmeier, wishing them well in their well-earned retirement.