Director to be named Monday

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

Commissioners hope to name the county’s new emergency management agency director Monday at the commission’s next meeting.

The announcement came after five candidates interviewed for the position Thursday. Commissioners took turns asking a series of 15 questions ranging from what type of qualifications and experience each candidate possessed for the job to why they wanted to be the county’s next EMA director.

Candidates possessed a wide variety of experience and education levels. Two other candidates were asked to interview — Will Jordan and former county Red Cross director Jeffery Biggs — but declined the opportunity.

The first candidate questioned was former Covington Center Arena manager Tony Wells, who cited his desire to “help serve the people of Covington County” as reasoning for applying for the director position.

Wells said to prepare for the position he talked extensively with the Coffee County EMA director about the particulars of the job.

“I think my work ethic is my greatest skill,” Wells said. “I have a broad knowledge of this community, this county. I’m someone (the commission) can depend on when they need it, someone who will help the people in need.”

Next to interview was current county employee Kiep Johnson, who has worked in the engineer’s office for the last eight years as head of the county’s bridge inspection program.

Johnson said he applied for the position because he saw a chance to advance his career with the county.

“I think my work experience with Mr. Capps in the engineer’s office, working through numerous floods, Hurricane George and Ivan and these most recent floods is a positive,” he said. As for formal training, Johnson said he has been trained in disaster preparedness and worked to coordinate efforts with local utility companies.

Johnson was the only candidate who stated he is trained in reading and understanding flood plain maps, which is a job duty of the EMA director. Additionally, Johnson stated he had grant writing experience.

When asked why he should be chosen for the position, he said, “I have a passion for this county. I’ve been a good employee for eight years and have spent the last six going to night school to get ready for an opportunity like this if it arose. It has, and I think I can do a good job.”

The third candidate was former EMA director Susan Carpenter, and when asked why she applied said, “I know all about (emergency management) and I love it. I think I can be an asset to the county.”

Carpenter worked as EMA director for 10 years before resigning in 2004. As part of her resumé, she presented the commissioners with a list of EMA courses, grants and accomplishments, including securing 21 outside warning sirens through grants and private donations and completing the requirements for the county to become one of the first “Storm Ready” counties in the state.

“EMA is so much more than just the weather,” Carpenter said. “The director needs to know what the situation is — whether it’s the weather or any kind of disaster — and know where to ask for help. I can do that.”

Laurel Hill, Fla., resident Shirley Sands was next to interview. Sands, like Carpenter, has extensive emergency response experience. She has served as disaster services director for both the Wiregrass and DeFuniak Springs, Fla., chapters of the American Red Cross, and is currently a volunteer with the Houston and Geneva County EMA offices. She has also completed numerous state and federal EMA certification courses ranging from emergency planning to bio-terrorism and is currently pursing a degree in emergency management.

“I’ve been in the field for disasters,” she said. “I’m well rounded in experience. My motivation (in wanting to be EMA director) is a desire to get the job done.”

The final applicant to interview was Pat Brammer, who holds a master’s degree in earth and environmental resources management, and has worked as an assistant EMA director in Dale County, and as the local emergency planning committee chair and EMA secretary for Henry County. She also holds a variety of EMA accreditations on both the state and federal levels.

“The thing about emergency management is that you can be the most educated person, but the degree, without working in the field, can’t stand alone,” Brammer said. “It’s just a basic foundation. (Being EMA director) is about helping the community through a bad situation. You have to have the drive to get out and work with people. I do.”

Commissioners made notes throughout the interview process and said they will inform Brenda Petty, who attended in her role as personnel director, by phone once they have made their decision.

That decision should be announced at Monday’s meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m.