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Fire Chief Stunek announces retirement

A visibly emotional Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek announced his retirement from the Brainerd Fire Department at Monday night's Brainerd City Council meeting.

Kevin Stunek
Kevin Stunek

A visibly emotional Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek announced his retirement from the Brainerd Fire Department at Monday night's Brainerd City Council meeting.

"I truly believe in my heart that Brainerd Fire and its members are one of the best firefighting machines in the world," Stunek, 62, wrote in his retirement letter. "While I look forward to enjoying the next chapter of my life in retirement, I will miss everyone I have come in contact with."

Stunek's last official day in the office will be April 17. He spent the last five years of his 40-plus-year career in firefighting as the Brainerd fire chief. His family's involvement with firefighting began in 1960 when his father, Herb Stunek, was first hired by the Brainerd Fire Department. Stunek was hired by the same man who hired his father. He also fought fires with his brother, Keith Stunek, now retired.

"One of my childhood dreams was to someday be a full-time fire chief," Stunek wrote. "I was taught many years ago by my parents to work hard and strive for your dreams. I feel I have passed that test."

After his announcement, Stunek said he intends to "let (his) brain rest" for awhile in his retirement. He said he intends to go fishing and golfing and to spend more time with his family.

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"I want to get to know my wife better," Stunek said.

The city council accepted Stunek's retirement with regret and requested the Civil Service Commission meet to begin the hiring process for a new chief. In the meantime, the council approved appointing Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller as interim chief. Lohmiller has experience with the Brainerd department, City Administrator Patrick Wussow said, in addition to running a business training other departments on safety.

Lohmiller will be expected to commit three to four hours per day to oversee incident command and supervise firefighters.

The city intends to interview top applicants for the position in late May or early June, with a projected start date of July 6.

Correction: This story was corrected to note Kevin Stunek was not hired by his father when he joined the fire department, but he was hired by the same man who hired his father years before. And Stunek's father, Herb Stunek, was a firefighter but never chief of the department.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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