The City of Casper has named Tom Solberg of Pleasant Hill, Iowa, as the new chief of the Casper Fire-EMS Department.

"From my perspective, Casper is real similar to where I spent the bulk of my career in Lee Summit, Missouri, for 30 years -- a vibrant, historic downtown, a growth city, multiple (fire) stations, was one of the first attractions to it when I heard about the position," Solberg said.

"As I've gone through my career to a couple of other places, obviously I've always liked Wyoming and that area," he said.

"I've vacationed out there a lot, had family out in that direction," Solberg said. "So to me it made sense to at least look at the opportunity and see if I'd be a good fit. Obviously I think I'd be a good fit for it, and look forward to coming there."

Solberg, 59, started as a paramedic firefighter at age 19 at Lee Summit, Mo., and worked his way up through the ranks and was chief there for nine years when he took an early retirement after 30 years, he said.

He re-entered his career in the Phoenix area for three years, taught fire training at Montana State University, and returned to Pleasant Hill for four years to be near his father who was dealing with cancer issues, he said.

Solberg knows he's following a rough time at the Casper Fire-EMS, after former Chief Kenneth King retired early. Emails obtained by a Wyoming newspaper indicate King used his city email account to send suggestive messages to women and make sexual comments about women's appearances to other fire personnel.

Such issues aren't unique to Casper, he said.

"My focus obviously is to come in and move the organization forward, engage the people of the fire department, reach the higher level of expectation both within the department and within the community to accomplish what we need to," he said. "That's generally what I've done with any department I've worked with."

City Manager Carter Napier will formally introduce him at a news conference at City Hall at 2 p.m. Friday.
The city received 28 applications for the position, and the list was winnowed to three finalists, Napier said in early February.

Jason Speiser, who has worked for the fire department since 2001, was appointed interim fire chief on Dec. 1 after King resigned and has participated in the candidate search.

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