Calahan to be recommended as EMA director

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

By Karen Hall


When county commissioners meet next Monday, the EMA committee will recommend Steve Calahan as the replacement for longtime director Bob Hopkins, who retires at the end of June.

Applications were accepted, and County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett announced, "Steve has come out on top. He meets state requirements and has a lot of credentials.

"I'd like you to consider Steve," the mayor said. As far as salary, he continued, "$55,000 is what Steve has agreed to. Most of our department heads are making that or more -- that's not by any means the highest. He's making more now, but this is just a new challenge for him. I'm expecting a lot of things from him, and I think we'll get them."

Emergency Management Agency committee chairman Mike Waggoner and committee member Seth Warf questioned the amount of the salary and the fact that it had already been set, though Waggoner admitted, "We're lucky to get Steve for that."

"I have a problem starting someone off making top money," said Warf.

"You've had a bargain for years," Liggett exclaimed. "There are a lot more requirements now."

"I think Steve can make big-time improvements real quick," added Waggoner. "When we approve a range, we can hire anywhere within it, from the top to the bottom. Steve obviously has the credentials; the experts think he deserves the job."

"You could hire cheaper, but you're going to get what you pay for," pointed out Emergency Medical Service Director Bill Reuter, who will be losing one of his top employees if Calahan takes the EMA job. "He's experienced in emergency services and deserves the upper end. If you pay him any less he'll be taking a drastic cut in pay and should turn it down."

Committee members then asked Calahan to tell them about himself and his vision for Marshall County's EMA going forward.

Calahan said he started with emergency services in 1987, and went full-time in 1993. He worked with fire departments and emergency management in the '90s, and was with Bob Hopkins a lot at that time.

"We can do better at preparing for a major disaster," Calahan said. "That's the challenge. I'm wanting our county to have the best it can have."

"There's a lot of challenges here," agreed Waggoner. "I think you will do a good job. We're not here to micromanage you."

Calahan said his first goals as EMA director would be to

* look for grant money

* establish good contacts with local agencies and with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency

* improve documentation and processes at the EMA, including preventive and corrective maintenance of vehicles, mutual-aid agreements, taking control of inventory, salvaging and properly storing supplies in the warehouse, and promoting citizen sign up for Code Red.

Within the first year, Calahan hopes to complete the rest of his certifications, recruit and retain volunteers, improve documentation, and upgrade the county's disaster plan.

He noted that the disaster plan is not just contained in a book on the shelf, it has to be in the minds and hearts of all the responders.

"Disaster plan exercises are the key to survival," Calahan said.

"Sounds real good," said committee member Reynelle Smith at the end of Calahan's presentation.

"Me too," said Waggoner, and the motion to recommend Calahan to the full commission was unanimously approved.

"Guys, I promise you, you're getting your money's worth," said Liggett.

"Sounds like we've got the man for the job," agreed Waggoner, and the meeting ended on that note.