LIMA — Change is coming to the city of Lima administration with two department heads set to retire this year.
Lima Fire Chief Mark Heffner and Utilities Director Gary Sheely are both set to retire, Heffner having served in the department since 1985, serving eight years as chief and Sheely having almost 40 years of experience with the city. Heffner’s official last day will be July 1, while Sheely will complete his tenure at the end of the year. Both announced their intentions to retire during Mayor David Berger’s weekly news conference Wednesday in city council chambers.
For Heffner, now was the best time to leave the department to spend more time with his family. In addition, the department is in a good position to transition in a new chief, he said.
“There are a lot of factors that go into making a decision to retire, not the least of which is the fact that I have four quality people who can fill in for me,” he said, speaking of deputy chiefs Brian Berheide and Bruce Black and battalion chiefs Ed Hower and Greg Kirkendall. “There will be a test, with those four people eligible to take the test, and I’d be comfortable with any one of them filling in.”
Heffner’s tenure included a restructuring in 2011, which included the closure of fire stations on Elm and Spring streets, along with the integration of paramedic services into the department.
“I’m proud of the guys and how they’ve embraced the whole medical concept in the fire service,” he said.
Sheely started in the water treatment plant, hired by current deputy director Michael Caprella and has been the utilities director for 30 years. Caprella will transition into the utilities director position, with Deputy Public Works Director Saul Allen now being trained to take the deputy Utilities director position.
The department will be in good hands with Caprella, Sheely said.
“Mike and I have had a great relationship, and everything I’ve been doing, Mike’s been involved in, and I think it will be a natural transition up,” he said. “We have a lot of the same philosophical views, and I think it will be a good fit.”
Berger commended the two on their years of service.
“We’ve really been privileged to have both Chief Heffner and Gary Sheely lead their respective departments,” he said. “They’re both responsible for large operations, but they have managed during their tenure to achieve a lot of change, reorganization and improvement.”
Sheely earned $100,296 in 2015, with Heffner’s salary totaling $95,394 last year.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.