Jeff Macko is looking forward to fishing.
The 64-year-old former Cary Fire Protection District chief retired Friday, leaving behind him a 45-year career that allowed him to work many years alongside his father.
“It hasn’t hit me yet,” Macko told the Northwest Herald the day before his retirement. “I’m going to take a little time and see where I’m at. I’ve got a lot of stuff planned.”
Those plans include Florida for a week with his wife, a wedding in St. Croix and extended fishing trips in Alaska and Canada.
Macko joined the fire department in 1973 and became chief in 2000, when his father, Lester Macko, retired, leaving open a job his son would take for the next 19 years.
After serving many years as a firefighter and emergency medical technician, Macko got his first promotion in May 1979, when he became a lieutenant, tasked with supervising a squad of firefighters.
He became a captain in 1986 and then assistant chief in 1991, when he was put in charge of all fire operations and took over as the department’s training officer.
In preparation for his father’s retirement from his longtime chief role, the district promoted Macko to deputy chief.
“Cary has always been a part of my life,” Macko said.
As chief, Macko belonged to many fire organizations, including the McHenry and Lake County Fire Chief’s Association, the Lake and McHenry County Specialized Response Team’s Executive Board, the Metro Fire Chiefs Association and the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association.
He also has held leadership positions in several fire organizations. Between 2000 and 2016, he served as president of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System Division 5. Between 2005 and 2010, he also served as the Illinois representative to the Great Lakes Division of the International Fire Chiefs Association.
Deputy Chief Brad Deltorre will replace Macko as chief. Deltorre, a 28-year member of the district, was promoted to deputy chief last year. He already has started work as the district’s new chief.
To Macko, his long career and the memories he forged fighting fires alongside his friends and family are things he will always treasure.
“We fought a lot of fires,” he said. “I always enjoyed the aspect of helping people. That was always very rewarding.”
On Friday afternoon, Macko did his official retirement walkout.
His colleagues saluted him and his many years of service.
His family and friends embraced him as he walked into the next chapter of his life.