Tracey Kujawa, the current fire chief for the Fire Department of Stevens Point, was selected from a pool of 50 nationwide applicants to become the new fire chief in Wausau.
Starting May 12, Kujawa will join the 59 members of the Wausau staff and will replacing Gary Buchberger who served as the fire chief in the Wausau area for 16 years.
“I had no desire to leave Stevens Point. I enjoy the city and my coworkers, but I rethought it and realized it would be a good opportunity to experience something different,” Kujawa said.
After 22 years in Stevens Point, Kujawa never thought she would be moving to a larger community to head a fire department almost double the size of the Stevens Point crew.
“Each fire department brings its own dynamics and after evaluation, I applied because this would be a benefit to my career,” Kujawa said.
Michael Loy, the human resources director for the city of Wausau, said the interview process was rigorous but Kujawa came out on top.
“We were looking for someone who is an inspirational leader. Kujawa is unique and brings a regional perspective, which is what we needed,” Loy said.
Kujawa offers motivation and inspiration in addition to leadership skills that will allow the department to improve, noted Loy.
“We talked to our fire crew about what they envisioned for a new fire chief and Kujawa matched what they wanted,” Loy said. “She has the knowledge, skills and the ability for the position, and she is what we needed culturally.”
The big challenge for Kujawa will be getting to know the Wausau area.
“I’m not worried about anything, I’m excited about a new area, a new community and new people to work with,” Kujawa said. “My whole career has been in Stevens Point so venturing out will be different for me.”
In addition to familiarizing herself with a new community, leaving the area will be difficult. Kujawa and her husband have a year to relocate to the Wausau area, meaning they must sell and move out of the house they bought from her parents before they had children.
“I’ll be leaving the house my children grew up in, the house I grew up in. It has history,” Kujawa said.
Regardless of a few minor obstacles, there are more advantages to the situation than there are disadvantages.
“I’ll be leaving a great department, but I’m looking forward to serving the city of Wausau,” Kujawa said.
At the last Police and Fire Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 22 the Stevens Point assistant fire chief Bob Finn was appointed the interim chief position. Finn will take over the position on Kujawa’s last day with the Stevens Point Fire Department on May 9.
While the Stevens Point Fire Department searches for a new chief, Kujawa assumes she will spend the remainder of her career in her new position as the Wausau fire chief.