Lodi Fire Chief Gene Stoddart this week said people do not get promoted for doing their jobs well, but because they demonstrate the potential to do more. The three veteran firefighters he promoted Tuesday afternoon at Carnegie Forum have done more, he said.
Those being recognized were Deputy Fire Chief Ron Penix, Battalion Chief Shane Langone and Captain Cameron Heberle.
A graduate of Tokay High School, Penix was born in Stockton and received his associate’s degree in Fire Science from San Joaquin Delta College, and joined the department in 1993. Prior to joining Lodi’s department, Penix, 49, was a firefighter with the Woodbridge Fire District.
Stoddart said thanks to Measure L, the 2018 sales tax dedicated to improving general services, including public safety, Penix will fill a position the department has not had for nearly two years.
“He fills in for me when I’m gone and is just as responsible for protecting the city as I am,” Stoddart said. “He’s an extreme workhorse, and you get assigned a lot of stuff because you are a workhorse.”
Penix said Tuesday was not just about his promotion to second in command, but about the dedication the entire department has shown to keep the community safe.
He urged his colleagues to continue challenging themselves, show initiative and attend training and classes to bring new ideas and techniques in firefighting back to the department.
“It’s not just me or Chief Stoddart that does (the job), it’s all of us,” he said. “We have so many officers and individuals that take on so many projects to keep the wheels moving here.”
Langone, 51, had also been a member of the Woodbridge Fire District before he joined the department in 2001. Born in San Jose, he too graduated from Tokay High, and has been in the fire service industry for more than 28 years.
Stoddart said Langone is always eager to learn, and there is a steep learning curve that comes with the position of battalion chief.
“It’s not always a position people strive for,” he said. “Because you’re switching from being with a team of three to supervising 15 people, making sure they’re following policy and procedure. And Shane will be able to make that transition.”
Langone thanked all his colleagues and the administrative staff for their overwhelming support during and after the promotion process. He also thanked Stoddart, Penix and battalion chiefs Brad Doell, Michael Alegre and Tim Ortegel for helping him learn what his new job entails.
“Every day I came to work I had 1,000 stupid questions I needed to ask you guys, and now I’m going to have 1,000 more I’m going to need to ask,” he said. “But I’m going to do the best job I possibly can and make you guys proud.”
A Lodi native, Heberle, 33, is a Tokay graduate and former member of the U.S. Navy. He was an explorer with Stockton Fire Department and a volunteer with Woodbridge Fire District before joining the department in 2008.
“He’s been a member of our fire investigation team, and has also been involved in updating a lot of our policies,” Stoddart said. “And because of his military background, he brings a sense of uniformity to the department, making sure our uniforms are on correctly and that we look professional.”
Heberle said a promotion should not just reflect the efforts of the person being recognized, but the teamwork performed with colleagues.
“Nobody is ever promoted alone,” he said. “There is always a team of people behind them. They’re always working with crews and other coworkers, and everyone is trying to build each other up and make sure they’re all squared away.”