Supervisors Hire New EMA Director
WATER VALLEY – Supervisors voted unanimously to hire Dalton Coleman as the county’s new emergency management agency (EMA) director after interviewing five candidates for the position during a recessed meeting Monday at the Water Valley courthouse that lasted eight hours. The vote followed more than two hours of interviews Monday morning and almost two hours of discussion in executive session later that afternoon.
“We feel like he will be a good choice for the county,” Board President Cayce Washington reported after the vote.
Coleman will replace longtime EMA Director Frank Hyde, who informed supervisors back in February that he will retire in May. Hyde has served the county for almost a quarter-century and has been extremely busy in recent months helping manage the county’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work that included helping distribute personal protection equipment provided by Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to local health care providers and first responders. Hyde is also among 19 people in the county who have tested positive for the virus since March and was sidelined for almost two weeks during his recovery. Within days after his recovery, Hyde was among first responders across the county who worked long hours to help with the cleanup in the aftermath of the Easter storm.
During Monday’s meeting, Washington explained that the hire is probably one of the most important hires the board will make. Washington also explained that the position includes serving as fire coordinator and 911 director, in addition to EMA director, with separate budgets for all three departments.
The duties for all three positions were outlined during the interviews and as fire coordinator the work includes overseeing the county’s volunteer fire departments and working with the fire chiefs. Supervisors emphasized the importance of recruiting new volunteers to respond to fires and wrecks to ensure the manpower is adequate as many of the longtime volunteers are older. As fire coordinator, Coleman will also be the lead arson investigator for the county.
As 911 director, Coleman will work with Sheriff Mark D. Fulco coordinating radio communications for the county. He will also be responsible for the distribution of radios in the county. He will also oversee the 911 office in Coffeeville that issues addresses and enforces compliance with the county’s flood plain ordinance. Another duty is ensuring that all structures in the county have 911 addressed visibly posted.
As EMA director, Coleman will be in charge of emergencies in the county and maintaining and overseeing equipment used for emergency operations in the county. He will also be responsible for pursuing grants for equipment and tornado sirens.
Coleman, the youngest of the candidates interviewed, told supervisors that he started serving as a volunteer at Clear Springs Volunteer Fire Department as a junior fire fighter. He shared his vision to help with recruiting future fire fighters.
“There are a lot of departments around us that are needing and seeking help,” Coleman explained. He cited an example when his department was backing up Big Creek Fire Department in neighboring Calhoun County.
“When their big steak house burned that night at 2:30, that is when I really looked around and saw a dire need for volunteers. They had folks coming from across the county and they do have a lot of younger people,” Coleman noted. “That is one thing that we are going to have to do in the county is find young people because they are the future generation of our fire departments. We have a lot of older ones and they are very dedicated,” Coleman said.
Coleman emphasized the importance of using social media to help inspire younger volunteers to serve the communities where they live.
Coleman also said training is essential to keep volunteers interested and to keep them mentally focused and ready for the next emergency. He cited the jaws of life as an example, a tool that is used to extract occupants trapped in a vehicle after a wreck. He cited an example last year when he used this equipment to free a person who was fatally injured in a wreck near his house.
“That one time you get to use that equipment, it is worth all of training,” he explained. “A mother lost her son, but she got to see him before he died,” Coleman said.
Washington asked each candidate, including Coleman, if they planned to work an additional job in addition to EMA director.
“No sir, I want to go full time into this. I love this county and I am actually taking a pay cut if I get this job. I love our county and I want to see our county going the right way. I don’t want to see the fire departments dwindle away, I want to see them build and grow,” Coleman told supervisors. He also said he planned to respond to every structure fire in the county.
The position will start at $37,500 annually and includes state retirement and health insurance. Other candidates interviewed included Herbie Rogers, Perry Myrick, Stewart Spence and Ben Boxx.