The County Commissioners have begun the process of appointing a new Homeland Security Coordinator and have decided to place the role under the oversight of the County Sheriff.
The intention is not to micromanage the position, explained Sheriff Steve Stahla to the commissioners, but to “make sure that the right and left hands know what each other is doing.” The sheriff will oversee the role with his “administrative capabilities,” said Commissioner Kelly Dennis, with the coordinator ultimately answering to the board.
Other changes may be made to the role, reverting to the “bare bones” functions mandated by state statute and placing emphasis on public information. Fire Warden Gari Gill, who is temporarily performing the duties of the Homeland Security Coordinator as well as his own, recognized how important this function is during the weekend’s flooding incidents.
“I was constantly on the phone with Homeland Security, the Weather Service and so on, keeping people updated,” he said, acknowledging that public information was lacking during the incident.
“I didn’t even think about calling the commissioners until things slowed down a bit.”
County Attorney Joe Baron used this example to emphasize the importance of the public information component. “Maybe the coordinator needs to be in the office in a command position,” he said, rather than out at incidents with the emergency management crews.
Baron also pointed out that giving the sheriff oversight would allow incidents to be reviewed and changes to be made quickly, without having to wait for the next meeting of the commissioners.
“We tried it the other way, so let’s try it this way,” confirmed Commissioner Jim Hadley.