Though most of her work has been behind the scenes, Finance Manager Rita Johnson’s expertise has played an integral role in making the Madison Fire Department the top-notch professional public service it is today.
After almost 45 years with the City of Madison— nearly 30 of them with the MFD— Rita is leaving her post as Finance Manager to enjoy what she hopes will be a relaxing and rewarding retirement.
In her role with the MFD, Rita oversaw the financial resources that made the department tick.
Where there may have been funding gaps, she pursued grants and other alternative means to bridge them. Her ability to forge and maintain positive relationships throughout the City put her in a better position to navigate complex problems in search of the best solutions.
Sometimes emergent needs would demand a last-minute shift in priorities. Rita remained flexible, always making sure essential needs were met.
Her mastery of all things finance made her an asset to the Department, and her commitment to people is what kept her motivated.
Her early-career experience in the City’s Human Services Department introduced her to difficult issues that most people don’t grapple with on a daily basis. Rita says that exposure at a relatively young age helped her realize that her personal priorities lie with the people in her life.
"Our time with one another is something you can’t get back," she says, reflecting on one of the lessons she carries into retirement.
With these priorities in mind, Rita intends to spend her newfound free time with friends and family she hasn’t seen in a while. No matter where life took her in the last four and a half decades, Rita says she always made a point to keep in touch with those who meant the most to her, especially those she felt might need support during a difficult time.
"If people want you in their lives, all you need to do is let them know you're available,” she said.
Knowing she’s given her best to the City and can now focus on her loved ones, Rita says she’s very happy with her decision to retire.
On Tuesday, January 5, 2016, the City of Madison Common Council issued a resolution honoring Rita for her exemplary service. Her dedication to the Madison Fire Department and the City of Madison surely made the community a better place to live.