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Hawkins EMA director requirements rule out mayor's choice

Jeff Bobo • Feb 1, 2007 at 9:57 AM

ROGERSVILLE - The Hawkins County Commission's Public Safety Committee approved requirements for the Emergency Management Agency director position Thursday that call for a minimum of 10 years experience in an emergency response service.

That action in essence eliminated from eligibility County Mayor Crockett Lee's choice for the position, Bob Turner, who has no experience in fire, rescue, ambulance or law enforcement services.

As a result, Lee said he will now begin the interviewing process again in hopes of finding an EMA director candidate who meets the requirements.

There's actually nothing new about the requirements approved by the committee Thursday.

On Thursday the county mayor's office presented the committee with the suggested EMA director requirements, guidelines and job description listed in the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) local officials handbook. Those requirements call for a minimum of four years of experience in an emergency management related field.

Although Turner had never served in an emergency responder position in the past, TEMA said he met its minimum requirements - presumably due to industrial and hazardous material safety training he received and conducted while working as a contractor on the West Coast.

In 2003 the Public Safety Committee approved EMA director requirements that included the statement: "The EMA director must have an emergency management degree or a minimum of 10 year of emergency training or emergency response, four years of which must have been in command or an administrative capacity to qualify."

The committee voted unanimously Thursday to insert that requirement into the TEMA handbook requirements and guidelines and present it to the County Commission later this month as the county's new EMA director requirements.

Turner's selection to the EMA director position by Lee has been criticized by several commissioners and members of emergency response agencies throughout the county.

Lee said he interviewed four of the 12 applicants for the EMA director position. Turner was the only applicant interviewed who had not previously served in emergency services such as fire, rescue, ambulance or law enforcement.

"My problem is that you've interviewed four people, and we're working around three experienced and qualified people to nominate one guy that don't have any experience," committee member Gorman Lipe said to Lee during the meeting.

State law dictates that the county mayor conduct the EMA director application and interview process and appoint a director who will then be ratified by a vote of the full county commission.

Lee has said he chose Turner based on Turner's extensive administrative expertise and his knowledge and skill in applying for federal grants. Committee members acknowledged Thursday that Lee won't likely have time to make a new EMA director appointment in time for the Feb. 26 commission meeting.

The committee also voted unanimously Thursday to direct the county mayor's staff to send a letter to TEMA representatives Gary Ellis and Bob Swabe explaining that the commission won't likely ratify a new EMA director before its March meeting. Ellis addressed the commission last week and stated that the county is in noncompliance with regulations that call for a full-time EMA director to be in place, and is at risk of losing grant funding.

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