The voice of the City of Gillette for many years will go silent after Friday, Oct. 22. City Communications Manager Geno Palazzari will end a memorable 11 years serving the community when he leaves his office for the last time today.
The guy behind the scenes keeping all city departments connected and the voice to the community in the event of emergencies made an emotional farewell speech at his final city council meeting Tuesday evening.
“This has completely changed my outlook on the way that, not just government works, but the way a workplace should function,” Palazzari told the council as he wiped away tears. “This is by far the best place I have ever worked, and I worked for my parents for 10 years.”
According to Palazzari, family is the only reason he is leaving the job he loves.
“My parents don’t travel anymore so it is getting more difficult to see them,” said Palazzari, who is moving back to Rochester, MN. “I have said many times that the only problem I have with Gillette is that it isn’t closer to my family.”
“I can’t thank this organization enough,” he continued. “From the moment that I came here, it’s been a family. Even when we’ve gone through tough times like weather events or the economy has gone down or up, I’ve never felt like anything was wrong because I always knew we would pull together and come through, and we always have.”
Gillette Mayor Louise Carter-King told Palazzari the respect was mutual.
“With heavy hearts this week we will be saying goodbye to one of our best advocates of this city, Mr. Palazzari,” she said during the meeting. “And I hate that he is leaving because I’m just now learning how to say his last name. He has been Geno forever. Geno, I think I can speak for not only our council, for our organization, for the city and for the state just how much you will be missed and how much you have contributed.”
Welcome to Gillette
Palazzari’s life changed in 2010 when he made the decision to take a job in the Cowboy State.
“I hail from Minnesota,” he said. “I was working for KAAL-TV in Rochester, MN., when I saw a classified ad in the local newspaper for the GPA-TV position with the City of Gillette.”
That led to his decade of time working for a community he grew fond of and a job that he found highly rewarding. Working for the City allowed him to share his talents among all facets of Gillette.
“Like many people, I was attracted to Gillette by a job. The chance to manage a television station was an excellent opportunity. It was also an incredible chance to live in a completely different environment than what I was used to,” Palazzari said. “I grew up surrounded by forests and lakes, so the wide-open spaces of northeast Wyoming were an exciting change. I love being in the outdoors. You can’t ask for a better place for that.”
His tenure here started in January of 2010 when he assumed the role of manager at Gillette Public Access television. Five years later, he took over as communications manager for the City in a position that has, in many ways, allowed him to be the voice to Gillette.
Palazzari, the guy who is usually packing a camera and loaded with lots of information when out and about, can describe his time in Gillette in one word: “FUN!”
“I tend to get bored easily,” he said. “so I thrive in fast-paced environments. That’s part of what attracted me to working in television.
Trying to explain what each City department and division does is more than a full-time job, he joked. “Even after all this time, I am still learning new things.”
When Palazzari took on his current role, he knew he would embrace a bigger workload with much more responsibility. Maintaining contact with virtually every organization in a town of more 30,000 is a full-time job, and then some.
“My role as communications manager allowed me to be involved in many facets of our community, so there was always something new to work on. I have enjoyed collaborating with my colleagues at the County, Campbell County Health, Campbell County School District, and Gillette College,” he explained. “I’ve been involved with the Y.E.S. House, Campbell County Chamber of Commerce, Energy Capital Economic Development, Communities of Excellence … I’m sure I am forgetting something so my apologies to anyone I may have missed.”
The 8-5 grind with many evening responsibilities was just part of Palazzari’s commitment to the community. Outside of his professional duties, he has served on several boards and committees including the Gillette Area Leadership Institute Steering Committee, Perkins Tech Prep Advisory Board, and United Way. And that’s not all.
“I have been involved with the Gillette Hockey Association either as a coach, referee, and board member for six or seven years,” he added. “I occasionally helped the Gillette Wild Junior Hockey Team as a public address announcer and play-by-play announcer for their live stream. I have also helped with events for GARF and VAC.”
With a full plate during and away from work, there was rarely quiet time.
“And just when things seem to slow down, we would get a snowstorm or the Gurley Overpass would close so there was always that to look forward to,” he noted.
In a bustling city like Gillette, memories are created on a weekly basis. Palazzari has many that he will carry with him back to Minnesota, he said. “I don’t know if I can pick just one. There’s always something happening in Gillette,” he said. “Certainly, one of the highlights was getting to go up in a hot air balloon for a celebration for Basin Electric, he recalled. They invited GPA-TV and the News Record to fly from the Rec Center to Dry Fork Station.”
Being involved with the annual Congressional staffer tour sponsored by the Northeast Wyoming Municipal Leaders group was amazing, he noted. “Getting to meet with people from around the country that do the real work in D.C. was always fascinating and really made me appreciate working in local government after listening to everything they have to go through.”
Working with the Campbell County League of Women Voters on Primary and General Election Candidates’ Forums was another event that means a lot to Palazzari, he said. “There are so many more, positive, and negative, memories that have made a big impact on his life and career that it would be very difficult to list them all.”
Some of the memories that have stuck with him are not quite as business-as-usual. For example, getting a call from the police department at 4 a.m. to let everyone know about a dumpster diving black bear in the Foothills area. “It’s not often I get to work in a Yogi Bear reference into my job,” he said.
“Helping the Gillette Police Department was always one of my favorite things, especially when it helped catch the ‘bad guys’,” he said.
One meaningful memory occurred in late 2017 when some “jerk” beat up a puppy and threw it in a dumpster in sub-zero temperatures, he said. “GPD asked me to post it on the City Facebook page. I think they had the guy in custody in a couple of hours. That was pretty satisfying to have been involved in that.”
As he packs up his office and gets ready to start his next chapter, Palazzari said Gillette will never be forgotten.
“The people,” he said he would miss the most.
“Gillette is just a big, small town,” he noted. “Most people are from somewhere else, and they remember what it was like when they first moved here so they do whatever they can to make you feel welcome. I love the way this community supports and honors our active military and veterans. The support for law enforcement and first responders is outstanding.”
Palazzari said he will miss going to the Big Horns, the Black Hills, being able to head out on his motorcycle and not see another soul for hours.
Oh yeah, he will also miss Pizza Carrello, Home Fire Foods, Rang’s Cycles, the Campbell County Public Library, Spirit Hall Ice Arena, Campbell County Ice Arena, Fred Neugebauer, and the entire rink staff, he said.
“My Gillette Hockey Association friends and family,” he added. “Donkey Creek Festival, Gillette Wild Junior Hockey and the mild winters, seriously. I keep thinking of more things, so I better stop now,” he concluded.
When looking back on the past decade, Palazzari said he is proud of the numerous things the city has accomplished. Too many to list he said but there are a couple that stand out.
“Coming from northern Minnesota, I will say the streets,” he said. “They are immaculate compared to any other place I have lived.”
“Obviously, the Madison Project is huge, both literally and figuratively,” he added. “The support for Gillette Public Access Television. On a personal level, the growth of the pathways system. I love riding bicycle and running. I love being able to get away from traffic and get a little peace and quiet right in town.”
Palazzari’s keen knack to communicate effectively has made him such an asset to the community over the years. So, it’s no surprise he will continue his journey in the same type of role, only further away.
He will be the Communications Manager for Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency. It’s a public/private partnership focused on turning Rochester and Mayo Clinic into the global destination for wellness and medical care.
“The job duties will be similar, but I am anticipating fewer late night/early morning wake-up calls,” he hoped.
One employer’s loss is another employer’s gain.
Palazzari will be missed by his colleagues across the board in Gillette. His personality and work ethic will be a tough act to follow but another community will embrace what he brings to the table.
“Everyone enjoyed you, what do I call it, your sarcasm,” Carter-King said. “You told people what you thought and they still weren’t mad at you for some reason. You have quite the gift and you will be missed.”
“I love and adore this community,” Palazzari said. “It’s very, very hard to pick up and go.”