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Largo Loses Fire Chief to Utah

Shelby Willis | Joe Pennino | Largo Fire Chief


Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Pennino will run the department while Largo conducts a national search for a replacement.

LARGO – Fire Chief Shelby Willis has left her job with Largo Fire Rescue to take a job in Utah.

Her last day was March 9. Deputy Chief Joseph Pennino will be acting chief while the city conducts a national search for a new chief.

“This decision to leave the city of Largo has been very difficult for me,” Willis wrote in a March 8 email. “As many of you are aware, my husband and I have dreamed of retiring out West to Colorado or Utah. We often talked about how we would live once that day came. Dreams are a funny thing, they are very exciting until they land on your door step. Then the concept becomes reality and that realization has been a very difficult process for me.”

In a Feb. 9 email, Willis sought to reassure firefighters and officials about the future of the department, saying, “Largo Fire Rescue currently has many projects and processes in place and these initiatives will continue as planned. Chief Pennino and the fire administration team are very well prepared to continue the department’s priorities, goals, and objectives without pause. This should be a seamless process.”

Willis’ departure brings to a close her more than 20 years with the Largo department. After climbing through the ranks, she became fire chief in 2013 after serving as interim chief for six months. She replaced former Chief Mike Wallace who had resigned amid an investigation into low department morale and his management style. She was the department’s first female chief and, at the time, was the only woman to lead a fire rescue department in Pinellas. (Seminole now has a woman chief.)

Pennino began his career in the Dunedin Fire Department as firefighter/paramedic. After a year and a half with Dunedin, he moved to Largo fire where he has served for the past 15 years. He has been an engine, truck, and squad driver for the department, served on the extrication and SWAT teams, and served as an acting lieutenant.

He earned the rank of lieutenant in 2008 after finishing first in the promotional process. He worked for Bayflite Air Ambulance for many years as well as working in a pediatric clinic while working at Largo.

Pennino served as an acting district chief and was promoted to district chief in 2012. He was promoted to division chief in 2013 serving as the operations and logistics chief for several years. In 2017, Pennino was promoted to deputy fire chief, where he serves as the emergency management coordinator for the city. During Hurricane Irma, he filled the role of incident commander.

Pennino has placed a high emphasis on education throughout his career, recently completing a masters degree in public administration from Liberty University. He is working on a doctorate in Public Policy at Valdosta State University. While working on his formal education, Pennino completed the Executive Fire Officer Program (a four-year graduate program) through the National Fire Academy.

Pennino and his wife are active in their church and have taken part in and led several mission trips. Most notability, they have traveled around the world as part of Mission of Hope International.

They twice visited the Nairobi Urban Poor Mathare Valley Community, an area that city officials described as “beyond impoverished.” Pennino and his wife worked as part of a team that ministered medical care to the community members. More than 1,000 people were provided medical care they otherwise never would have received. Additionally this team worked with orphaned children to provide education, clothing, and nutrition to children in one of the largest poverty stricken areas in the world.

For information about Largo Fire Rescue, go to

Photo shows Shelby Willis, left, and Joe Pennino.

Largo Fire | Shelby Willis | Joe Pennino | Fire Chief | Tampabay News

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Largo Loses Fire Chief to Utah
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Largo Loses Fire Chief to Utah
Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Pennino will run the department while Largo conducts a national search for a replacement.
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TB Reporter
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