Eric Abbott, East Tawas’ assistant fire chief, was hired by the Iosco County Board of Commissioners as the county’s new emergency management coordinator during a June 17 meeting.

TAWAS CITY – Iosco County has a new emergency management coordinator after the hiring of Assistant East Tawas Fire Chief Eric Abbott for the position. The hiring took place during the an Iosco County Board of Commissioners meeting on June 17 held via Zoom.

The hiring comes after the abrupt retirement of former coordinator Ed Rohn, who resigned from both Iosco and Arenac counties as the coordinator earlier in the month. His departure from the job comes during two major county emergencies, one being the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic and the second being the mass flooding – casing damage to public and private property – that hit Iosco County and other areas of the region in late May.

Abbott, an Iosco County native, was hired to the part-time position, to work 24 hours a week for the county at a pay rate of $19.11 an hour. In addition to his more than 20 years of experience in both Kentucky and Michigan as a volunteer firefighter, he also worked as an educator and currently works for Insurance Service Offices as a public protection field representative, evaluating Michigan communities doing assessments on their fire loss preparedness.

Commissioners also voted to change how the emergency management position in Iosco County will be officiated as well. Effectively, with a contract change, Iosco County 911 Director Mike Eller will now supervise the position. Commission Chairman Robert Huebel explained the rational behind the change.

“Obviously we have had some tumultuously waters here with the emergency manager and director,” he said, thanking Iosco County Co-Administrators Nancy Huebel and Mindy Shirmer, as well as Vice Chairman Jay O’Farrell for their recent help with the crisis.

“We have all spent time with the sheriff and Eller to try to get our emergency manager position, which in these times, we have to have somebody there who has got some fire in the belly and wants to jump on board. We have gotten input and we have come up with a plan,” Huebel said.

Under the new plan, Eller’s contract as was amended to give him supervisorial duties of the emergency management coordinator. With that was also a salary increase for him from $52,000 to $57,000 a year, with 2 percent pay increases for the next three years of the contract.

Under the contract the coordinator will be responsible for reporting to the board of commissioners twice yearly, but will be supervised and will report to Eller for the job regularly. 

Another change is that the emergency management coordinator will work for Iosco County alone, and the time will not be split between counties, as was done with Rohn’s position.

 “(We want) to see a little more oversight with the emergency manager, the emergency manager is only going to be working within Iosco County, I’ve talked to the chairman of Arenac County, they are going their own direction” Huebel said. “They will be fully focused on our county. And Mike Eller will be overseeing the position, I feel that he fully deserves a bump in pay for taking that role on.”

After discussion a motion to modify the contact was unanimously approved. Another motion to hire Abbott was unanimously approved as well.

Huebel said he did sit down with Abbott and said that the new coordinator would have some “catch-up” to play.

“I would be surprised if he was only doing 24 hours a week, he is going to earn his money, there is no doubt in my mind about it,” said Huebel

After this Commissioner Charles Finley asked what the hiring terms for Abbott would be.

Clerk Nancy Huebel said that the position was not one with terms, but it was at-will employment by the county.

O’Farrell said that there would be a reevaluation of Abbott’s effectiveness in a year, and said that he would have a close eye on his performance anyway under Eller’s supervision, but did not doubt that Abbott could do the job and do it well.

“I think with his interest and motivation he’s got all the requirements of doing a good job, so we’ll see what happens and we’ll do an evaluation in a year,” O’Farrell said. “I think this is nothing but a positive for the residents of Iosco County.