Gardon, Simmer Honored As First Responders Of The Year

Each year the Wisconsin State Assembly recognizes one first responder from each of the state’s  99 Assembly Districts for achievements and actions above and beyond the call of duty.

Among the the first responders recognized at this year’s ceremony in Madison  on Tuesday, Oct. 17 were Peshtigo Fire Chief Chuck Gardon, selected by Rep. Elijah Behnke of Oconto from all nominees from the 89th Assembly District, and Silver Cliff Volunteer Firefighter Dan Simmer, selected by Rep. Jeff Mursau from among all nominees from the 36th Assembly District.

Simmer was nominated by a neighbor after he came to their aid when their garage had caught fire. They wrote:

 “...My husband and I (retired seniors) live in the national forest on a remote cul-de-sac about 13 miles from our small fire station. On the evening of March 4th, our garage caught fire. By the time we realized what was happening, it was totally engulfed. Although separate from the house, its close proximity put our home and lives in danger. Because of a recent temperature drop, ice had formed on the hill leading up to our home, making the approach by the rescue squad and trucks extremely slow and dangerous.

“Dan, seeing the glow of the fire through the woods, grabbed his gear and ran through the snow and ice covered forest. Grabbing a garden hose from our basement, he immediately started hosing down the vulnerable end of the house nearest the fire. The squad later agreed, had Dan not arrived when he did and applied water as he did, our property would have been a total loss...not to mention the health of my husband recently recovering from surgery. We are so grateful to Dan and all the rescue responders who braved the elements that night to come to our aid.”

“Congratulations Dan!” Mursau declared in presenting the award. “Senator Mary Felzkowski and I thank you and all of our first responders who are the first on the scene of an emergency and put their lives on the line everyday to keep us safe.”

Gardon was nominated by Peshtigo Mayor Cathi Malke, who wrote: “Chief Gardon has been a volunteer firefighter for the City of Peshtigo over the past 43 years. Chief Gardon started his career in 1980, advanced to Lieutenant in 1994, Captain in 2003, and Assistant Fire Chief in 2010 and I can proudly say Fire Chief in 2020 until present. 

“With response times lengthening for 911 calls and lack of EMS personnel to respond, under the helm of Fire Chief Gardon, he spoke with his team of fire fighters and they all agreed this move is essential for the well being of City of Peshtigo residents and visitors to the city. The members of the Fire Department graciously volunteered to become EMR’s (Emergency Medical Responders) responding to 911 medical and traffic emergencies not only in our city, but surrounding cities as well.

“Chief Gardon and his team supported applying for the Neighborhood Funding Program Grant. The City of Peshtigo was awarded $3 million dollars and Chief Gardon spearheaded overseeing the ongoing project which included an addition to the Peshtigo City Hall for a needed expansion to house responding emergency vehicles and personnel. Additional space will be dedicated and equipped for training purposes. The Peshtigo Library will also see an addition of 15 feet. 

“The City of Peshtigo is referenced as, ‘The City Reborn from the Ashes’ of the Great Peshtigo Fire of 1871,” Malke’s letter continued. “Chief Gardon never forgets our city’s past and supports ongoing training to be prepared. Chief Gardon is always looking ahead to make positive changes for the betterment of the city he protects. For those who know Chief Gardon, he is always willing to go out of his way to accommodate everyone. His mannerism echoes his dedication to his family, fellow fire fighters and to all that know him.

“To dedicate 43 years of your life being on call, carrying a pager, never knowing when the call for help will come in, is the definition of commitment. Adding a different dimension of the department becoming trained EM R’s, the vision of expanding services, making our community a safer place to live. Chief Gardon has had an impact on his son Christopher, who is following in his dad’s footsteps being a member of the Fire Department. 

“In closing, these are just a few reasons why I feel Fire Chief Chuck Gardon deserves First Responder of the Year. I can sleep at night knowing we have a dedicated group of caring individuals ready to respond when the pager goes off. What else can I say about an individual for the past 43 years, who leaves his family to put himself in harm’s way to protect and take care of ours! Thank you in advance for this consideration,” Malke’s letter concluded. 

Mursau said the day the “First Responders of the Year Awards” are celebrated in Madison is one of his favorite days of the legislative session each year, and declared the individuals chosen, “...are dedicated public servants who demonstrate bravery, compassion, and selflessness to keep our communities safe.” He added that this year’s honorees include two K-9 officers.

In preparation for selecting the person to be honored from their district, Representatives had invited nominations, and noted that each Assembly person would identify a deserving person in their district for a First Responder of the Year recognition, and each district recipient would be invited to attend the recognition ceremony in Madison surrounded by family, friends, and co-workers if they so choose. 

It was explained that “First Responders” is meant to include the broader category of responders, which includes police and sheriff officers, firefighters (paid and volunteer), and EMS personnel (paramedics/EMTs/volunteer first responders). 

Nominations could be predicated on a variety of things including a specific heroic action, a significant professional achievement, the person’s body of work over time, something special they do for the community relating to their work, and/or their length of service.

At the ceremony, Rep. Kevin Petersen, Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore, declared, “In the face of adversity, law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel are the unsung heroes who keep our cities, towns, and villages safe...It is never easy to pick a winner, as every first responder is deserving of this award...Wisconsin’s first responders are indeed the unsung heroes of our communities. Please join me in thanking each and every person whose sacrifices and dedication keep Wisconsin a safe place to live, work, raise a family, and retire.”

He noted altogether in Wisconsin, there are over 9,400 career firefighters, 13,700 law enforcement officers, 9,900 career EMS personnel, and over 23,000 volunteer firefighters and EMS providers.


Subscriber Login