With the recent historic rainstorms and flooding that have devastated parts of Iosco County, and flooded many areas of the state – combined with the largest pandemic to hit the country in more than 100 years – Iosco County has been fighting a war on two fronts.
On one side of the war there is the battle with the COVID-19 global pandemic, and efforts to keep safe, healthy and financially secure.
Iosco County, along with many local governmental units, residents, private businesses and others, has felt the severe financial pinch that has occurred as a result of shutdown orders and shuttered businesses. This has impacted the ability of workers and businesses to generate revenue to stay afloat, and it has impacted local government to keep operational. This is not even counting the sacrifices and struggles many have undergone to keep healthy in the pandemic.
With the county still trying to regain its balance from the devastating blow of COVID-19, the rainstorms, flooding and severe property damage – both public and private – hit the county causing massive damage to property and leaving some without homes in the county and many others displaced.
Although the final tally of the damage has not been recorded yet, it is undoubtedly going to be in the tens of millions of dollars in damage to the county. The storms and flooding left many in the county picking up the pieces, and at the same time worrying about the pandemic. During all this was the inopportune retirement timing of Iosco County’s Emergency Management Coordinator Ed Rohn.
Rohn, who had did the job for more than a decade, arguably left Iosco County “holding the bag” concerning the flooding issues in the county and the pandemic leaving Iosco County officials scrambling to work on gathering required information to help get state and federal disaster relief for the county.
Members of the county’s administration and volunteers, notably Iosco County 911 Central Dispatch Director Mike Eller, should be commended for taking the lead on getting damage assessments done in an extremely quick time so that our residents and local agencies can have a chance at getting a slice of state and federal disaster relief funding.
Eller said himself that there should have been more time, and that it was the job of the county’s emergency management coordinator to take the lead on the project. This includes both training volunteers for the job, and letting administrators know what needed to be done in the first place.
But that is now in the past, and county officials will be looking for a new director to take the helm and keep Iosco County safe and up to date when another emergency strikes.
What should the hiring committee look for when getting a new emergency management coordinator? Iosco County needs someone who is going to bring the county into the information age, for starters. For a vast number of residents, and Americans, getting their breaking information is done by going onto the Internet, whether it is a local newspaper’s website, or the Facebook or Twitter account of a public body. Many of the county’s offices, including the Iosco County Clerk’s office, have a social media presence. During the flooding that took place in Arenac County, the Arenac County Sheriff’s Department, for example, regularly posted roadway closures and hazards for residents to avoid.
Iosco County’s emergency management department does not have a social media presence to keep the public informed on such issues. The site could be as simple as letting the public know what work is going on with the department, to how to get needed aid, and doesn’t cost a dime to set up. The new manager should also cultivate a relationship with the county and regional media outlets as well to disseminate valuable information as well during an emergency. If it wasn’t said at a county meeting, this newspaper didn’t get it from the previous manager.
Another feature that should be in the new manager is someone who will work for the county, and Iosco County alone. Rohn worked for both Iosco and Arenac counties. The new manager should devote 100 percent of their time in the part-time position to the interests of Iosco County, so that our residents should not be lost in the shuffle.
Additionally, this emergency management coordinator should be cross training in the work. Many who helped compile the damage assessment for the county after the flooding had to be trained on the spot by the Michigan State Police. This training should be coordinated ahead of time by the new director, so that if there is another emergency, volunteers will be ready and able to get out and do work.
Lastly, the county government needs to hire someone who has great passion for public service. This isn’t a job where they are going to become a millionaire, but one where they will be conduit in aiding the county’s residents and government in getting help when they need it the most.