Coleman is named EMA boss|[9/21/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 21, 2006

A planner in the area of hazard mitigation since 1979 when the department was known as Vicksburg-Warren County Civil Defense was unanimously named director of the Warren County Emergency Management Agency Wednesday.

Gwen Coleman, 49, the EMA’s longest-tenured employee, was chosen by the board of supervisors without a formal action to &#8220unappoint” Geoffrey Greetham, who has been in the role since May.

Greetham will continue as director of the Warren County 911 Dispatch Center, the job for which he was initially hired. Supervisors are still looking for an operations officer for emergency management.

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The board directed County Administrator John Smith to notify the 20 applicants interested in the position that a selection would not be made until the directorship was settled.

&#8220A director needs to be deeply involved in hiring the operations officer,” Smith told the board.

Coleman, who did not attend the board meeting, was notified of the decision by Smith afterward. Coleman said the department &#8220was in a dilemma” with Greetham serving as interim director of the department plus management of the dispatch center.

&#8220I am willing to serve and do whatever is necessary,” Coleman said.

Greetham has not received extra compensation resulting from his added appointment, a move he contended happened only by a &#8220handshake agreement” between he and supervisors who voted to oust former director L.W. &#8220Bump” Callaway in May.

&#8220The interim title wasn’t part of that,” he said. At the time supervisors voted 3-2 to name him interim director, Greetham said he was willing to &#8220serve the community in any capacity.”

Supervisors had voted Monday to advertise for a full-time director of the agency, a move Greetham said Wednesday he took as a snub. &#8220As far as I’m concerned, (my appointment) ended when supervisors voted to advertise,” he said.

As for Coleman, her duties were doubled when the county budgeted the building permit department as an office separate from emergency management. The office also handles subdivision and floodplain regulations and had been combined with emergency management for years.

The Warren County Emergency Management Agency has evolved from its Cold-War era title of Civil Defense to one that makes plans for dealing with both natural disasters and with industrial or other large-scale accidents.

The position comes with a seat on the E-911 Commission, which has been a six-member panel since May because Greetham is an employee of that commission, which disqualifies him from board membership.

A 1998 agreement between Vicksburg and Warren County reserved commission seats for one county supervisor, the emergency management director, the sheriff, the county volunteer fire department coordinator, the mayor, the police chief and the fire chief.

District 1 Supervisor David McDonald, the supervisor who serves on the commission, said Wednesday the emergency management director was &#8220an integral part of 911” and favors the current arrangement.

Any change to an at-large position would have to result from a change to the local agreement.

Coleman is no stranger to hiring controversies in the department, having been interviewed for the job in 2000 after longtime director Luther Warnock retired.

Callaway was then hired on a 3-2 vote, with the two dissenting supervisors, District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon and former District 2 Supervisor Michael Mayfield asking the next day to have the vote rescinded because of &#8220back-room politics.”

This year, Coleman was also mentioned by Selmon and District 4 Supervisor Carl Flanders as a plausible candidate for an operations officer when it came open in March. Essentially, the office is that of a deputy director.

Referencing Coleman, District 2 Supervisor William Banks called her &#8220a well-qualified individual.”