By Marcy Stamper
Okanogan County is reorganizing its approach to emergency management, moving the job back under the county commissioners instead of the Sheriff’s Office.
The change was prompted by a reevaluation of the county’s emergency procedures and coincides with the resignation of Scott Miller, the county’s emergency manager for the past 11 years, according to Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers. Miller took a new post as director of emergency management for Yakima County in January.
Until 30 years ago, emergency management was run out of the commissioners’ office and, in a small county where everyone wears a lot of hats, the system has worked, said Rogers. But because many of the emergency manager’s responsibilities require close cooperation with the commissioners, who have the authority to declare a state of emergency or to appropriate funds for road repair, it makes sense to reorganize, he said.
Under the new system, the emergency manager — who coordinates first responders and others who assist in a disaster — would be based in a central office in Okanogan and would focus on planning and making sure everything flows efficiently, said Rogers.
Restructuring emergency management has been under discussion for some time, in part to fulfill a long-standing agreement between the county and cities that requires emergency management to be under a joint local organization, said Miller this week by email. “I believe it will be more responsive to the needs of the cities, as well as the county,” he said.
“There are many factors involved in a job change, both personal and job related, and my experiences during the Carlton Complex were part of that decision,” said Miller. Miller said he believed his experiences in Okanogan County made him attractive to Yakima County, where he has more responsibility.
“You need somebody who knows the Incident Command System. You’ve got to like doing it [emergency response],” said Rogers. “Scott loved doing it — he loved being in the middle of it.”
The emergency manager coordinates the emergency and disaster needs of the county, towns and cities. The manager works with all county departments and levels of government as well as volunteer organizations and the private sector. The county is currently advertising the job.
New chief criminal deputy named
In other changes at the Sheriff’s Office, Steve Brown, who has worked for the department’s drug task force for the past 14 years — the past four as sergeant — took over the duties of chief criminal deputy starting Feb. 1. Brown replaces Dave Rodriguez, who resigned from the post when he was elected as county coroner. The chief criminal deputy oversees deputies and detectives and manages the sergeants who run special programs such as search and rescue, the special-response team, the K-9 program and the drug task force.
“Steve’s really squared away,” said Rogers, who said there was a month-long transition as Brown worked with Rodriguez and others in the department.