Northfield Village — The village will seek new leadership for its fire department after Village Council unanimously approved a decision by Mayor Jesse Nehez to terminate Fire Chief Gary Vojtush last night, said Law Director Brad Bryan.
“I took this action,” wrote Nehez in a press release, “because I had come to the conclusion that the department required new leadership and a new voice going forward.”
Bryan said Vojtush’ firing followed a procedure outlined in an amendment to the village’s charter that voters approved Nov. 6 which gives authority to terminate the fire chief to the mayor in his role as public safety director, subject to approval by at least two-thirds of Council.
Bryan said Council also voted unanimously to appoint Fire Capt. Jason Buss as interim chief.
“Acting Chief Buss will be a candidate for the chief’s position,” wrote Nehez.
Bryan said Vojtush was asked to resign Tuesday. In a letter to Nehez that day, Vojtush offered to resign as chief, but asked to remain on the department.
“I have 25 years of part-time experience, 18 years of full-time experience, and have served on the Northfield Village Fire Department for 12-and-a-half years, with eight of those years being the fire chief,” wrote Vojtush. “With limited local personnel on the fire department I feel I would be an asset to continue as a firefighter/paramedic with the Village of Northfield.”
However, in a response to Vojtush Wednesday, Nehez wrote that he was “terminating you from your position as Northfield Village fire chief and your employment with the village.”
In his press release Nehez said he “felt that his remaining on the department would not create an optimal climate in which the new chief could operate in the immediate future.”
Vojtush was appointed chief in January 2004 after former Fire Chief John Lowey retired.
“Council and I would like to thank Chief Vojtush for his 12-plus years of service to the Northfield Village Fire Department and nearly nine years as chief,” wrote Nehez in his press release. “We wish him well in his future endeavors.”
For more on this story, see the Dec. 19 issue of the News Leader.