SPRING HILL — Longtime Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commissioner Gene Panozzo made his resignation from the board official Friday with a letter that thanked citizens, fellow commissioners and district staff for support during his nearly 20 years of service.
In his letter, Panozzo, 70, gave no reason for his immediate resignation. However, some fellow commissioners acknowledged that he had been dealing with health issues for some time.
"I know he wasn't going to run next year, but I thought his plan was to stay until the election," said Leo Jacobs, a fellow commissioner. "Sometimes we don't have a choice in those kinds of things."
Spring Hill Fire Chief Mike Rampino said he was surprised when Panozzo informed him Wednesday night of his intent to resign, and praised the commissioner for his years of leadership and loyalty to the community.
"Not all of those years have been rosy," Rampino said. "To do what he did in a volunteer role for so long is commendable."
Appointed in 1990, Panozzo ran for the seat in 1992 and lost; he tried again in 1994 and won. He was re-elected in 1998, 2002 and 2006. During his tenure, there were three attempts by voters to consolidate the district's fire and rescue services with the county. The district won its independence in 2008.
Panozzo, who did not return phone calls for comment Friday, has critics, some of whom called him "silent Gene" due to his lack of input during meetings. His perceived lack of interest resulted in calls by citizens at recent meetings for him to resign.
Commissioner Rob Giammarco said he expects that the topic of Panozzo's replacement, who will be chosen by the four remaining board members, will dominate the agenda at Wednesday's meeting.
Commissioner John Pasquale will not be at the meeting because he is out of town on a family matter.
Said Giammarco, "I'd like to see the board move on this quickly because we have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks and months."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 848-1435.