Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Michele Pankow sworn in as first female chief of Rockford Fire Department

By TRRT Newsroom

ROCKFORD — Michele Pankow was sworn in as the first female chief of the Rockford Fire Department Wednesday during a ceremony at Veterans Memorial Hall.

Pankow joined the department in 1992 and worked her her way up the ranks, and in 2016 became the first woman to become a division chief. She most recently served as the division chief of operations. She holds an associateā€™s degree from Rock Valley College, a bachelor’s degree in fire service management from Southern Illinois University and a master’s in public administration from Northern Illinois University.

“What an incredible day, what an incredible opportunity,” Pankow said. “I am so very humbled. I am very proud. I have this big mix of emotions, but I have to say I am most proud of my department. I have a wonderful, wonderful group of people that I’ve worked with all these years. I started at the young age of 22. I have grown up on this fire department for the last 28 years.”

Mayor Tom McNamara said: “I can say without a doubt that Chief Pankow is one of the most qualified chiefs we have ever had to fill this role. Her resume is incredibly impressive, and I am thrilled that she will be the new chief. She’s not in this for public praise or accolades or fame. She does her job to serve the people of our community. She is a true servant leader. That’s obvious to all that know her.”

Panknow is the 11th chief of the Rockford Fire Department, which was established in 1881. She is expected to earn $161,000 annually.

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