Cayuga County may soon have an interim leader in place to oversee its emergency management office while a search for a permanent director continues.
The county Legislature Judicial and Public Safety Committee this week approved hiring Dale Currier, a former emergency management director for Oswego County who has provided interim leadership for other counties in similar situations, to take over after the August resignation of Amy Russett. The hire still requires the approval of the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee next week and the full Legislature later this month.
The resolution approved by the Judicial and Public Safety Committee on Wednesday said lawmakers want to bring in Currier "to prevent loss of progress in the department, as well as to assist with the search for a permanent director." He would be paid based on an annual salary of $65,000.
The county's emergency management department has experienced considerable leadership turnover recently. Russett was hired as director in October but stepped down to take an outside job working from her Syracuse home. EMO Deputy Director Harrison Sherman has been filling for Russett.
Russett's hire last fall concluded a process that saw the sudden departures in January 2019 of a director who had been hired about a month earlier and a longtime deputy director, who later filed a lawsuit against the county alleging sexual discrimination. A different deputy director who had run operations from 2017 to late 2018 was soon placed on administrative leave before resigning.
Legislator Hans Pecher, the judicial and public safety committee chairperson, said the state has advised the county to get an interim leader in place. The committee's vote to hire an interim director was not unanimous, as Legislator Tucker Whitman of Sterling questioned the necessity of filling the post on an interim basis and voted no.
"As great as an idea as it seems to just throw the first person in there we could find because the state said so, I think over the last year and a half, that department has proven that that may not be the wisest decision," he said. "I still think there's other avenues to explore we've proven that that department can go just about a year and be fine without anybody at the helm."
Legislature Chairperson Aileen McNabb-Coleman responded, saying the county needs to fully staff the office given the current state of emergency in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I do think we should take Tucker's comments seriously and be able to develop a plan for long term, but I will say for today and more immediately, we need to fill that position as soon as we can," she said.
In addition to his work in Oswego County, Currier's extensive experience in emergency services includes working as a regional representative and training specialty with the state's homeland security division. McNabb-Coleman said that Currier was "highly recommended" by both state officials and officials in Oswego County.
Executive Jeremy Boyer can be reached at (315) 282-2231 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenBoyer
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