After 25 years, Missoula Fire Chief Tom Steenberg will hang up his firefighter’s helmet Dec. 31.
In a statement released last week, Steenberg called his career with the city “wonderful” and “rewarding,” but that doesn’t mean he’s not looking forward to retirement.
“I have five or six years worth of things I’ve been putting off that I’d really like to do,” he says.
Steenberg joined the department in 1984. Fifteen years later, he was promoted to captain and assumed the department’s head role in 2003. Under Steenberg’s leadership, the city built two fire stations and remodeled another. The city also adopted a Fire Master Plan, which is a blueprint for future growth.
Despite these accomplishments, Steenberg says he’s most proud of the relationship the department built with the firefighters union, noting that the last round of negotiations landed a wellness-fitness program. The interest, Steenberg notes, stems from the firefighter combat challenge, an international competition that the Missoula team has won in the past.
“That really got us on the road to physical fitness,” Steenberg says. “This program is just another step.”
In a statement, Mayor John Engen praised Steenberg: “As a City Councilman, I came to know and appreciate Tom Steenberg as a leader. As a mayor, I’ve slept better every night knowing that Tom and his deep bench of dedicated, competent firefighters have the watch.”
Steenberg says his best memories stem from the people he’s met. He’ll miss riding around on fire engines and the day-to-day job of helping people out.
“I’ve missed that since I got off the fire engines back in 2002,” he says.
Does he know what retirement holds? Not really.
“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” he says. “But I’m gonna figure it out. I’ll probably get in a little better shape myself.”