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Mark Sitarz takes over as St. Anthony’s new fire chief
St. Anthony Village has named 15-year department veteran Mark Sitarz as its new fire chief to replace outgoing chief John Malenick, who retired earlier this month.
Sitarz, 44, grew up in the Village and is a graduate of St. John’s University, where he majored in political science and Spanish studies.
While working in the IT industry, Sitarz joined the department as a part-time firefighter in 1998, before accepting a full-time firefighter position in 2001.
Sitarz still lives in St. Anthony with his wife Sarah and two pugs. He and Sarah met while he was on duty in August 2001. He recalls returning from running an errand and encountering Sarah’s overheated car about a half a block from the station. He and another firefighter pushed the car into the fire station’s parking lot. Soon after he gave her a ride home.
Smitten with one another, Sarah returned sometime later to thank him for his good deed, and to ask him out on a date. They have been together ever since.
Since then the fire chief has held several leadership positions on the department, including that of a trainer. The Fire Instructors and Training Officers Association of Minnesota named Sitarz, along with the Village’s newly appointed fire marshal, Chris Fuller, Fire Training Officers of the Year in 2012.
Malenick says it’s a testament to who Sitarz is as a person -- someone who is highly dedicated to his job and to making sure firefighters are highly trained and ready for any situation.
“The department is in good hands,” Malenick says.
Sitarz says he cannot say what first drew him to fire service specifically, other than that he always wanted to be a firefighter. He enjoyed IT work, but says when the full-time position presented itself on St. Anthony’s Fire Department he did not think twice about applying for it.
“He cares deeply about the St. Anthony Fire Department,” St. Anthony Police Chief John Ohl says. “I know he’s committed to them. I think all of his decisions will be based on caring a great deal about the organization.”
Ohl was on the panel of city department heads that were responsible for hiring a new fire chief. He said they were fortunate to have a field of very qualified internal candidates to choose from, any one of which would have made a great fire chief. Sitarz, he says, is a very positive person, who he believes will bring about a lot of collaboration within the fire department and with other departments in the city.
“It’s very important to him, I think, to get input from his people and move the department forward,” he says. “I think he will seek that input and create his own department that he feels is moving it in the right direction.”
Malenick shared Ohl’s sentiment, and added that he is well trained, educated, personable and committed to the success of the department and the wellbeing of the city’s residents.
“I am truly excited to have been given this opportunity to serve the residents of St. Anthony,” Sitarz says. “Growing up here and living here, I have a solid connection to this community. That connection also holds true to the past and current members of the department. Community focused is a common theme that this fire department has maintained throughout its existence and that is not going away.”
The chief says he is lucky to be surrounded with the experience and dedication of the department’s current members. The need for both these traits, he says, is more important than ever, as the fire department has truly become an “all hazard” responder.
“You don’t see us advertising our service but people know that when in doubt they can call the fire department to help them out. We just need to be prepared for what that might be which takes dedication and experience. I’m glad we excel in both those areas.”
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7824.