Friday, May 13, 2005

Pasco Emergency Mangagement Position Still Vacant

Source: TBO.com News

NEW PORT RICHEY - It's just two weeks until the start of hurricane season, and Pasco County has yet to name a new emergency management director.
But there's no reason to panic, county officials say.

``Everything's under control. I want to emphasize that,'' Personnel Director Barbara De Si mone said. ``Not only is the staff there, but department heads and employees are very familiar with what to do.''

Pasco officials began a search for a new emergency management director in March, after longtime director Michele Baker stepped down. Baker took a new position as program administrator for the county's engineering department.

Since then, Jim Johnston, the assistant emergency management director, has served as interim director. Johnston applied for the director job but did not meet the minimum qualifications, which include a bachelor's degree, De Simone said.

Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30.

Baker and De Simone have interviewed five finalists for the emergency management director job, and they plan to invite two candidates for follow up interviews in mid-June with County Administrator John Gallagher. Applicants came from throughout the country with experience in hurricanes, blizzards and anti- terrorism efforts, but just a few from Florida submitted resumes.

The salary range is between $43,515 and $70,550. Baker was paid $62,260 in the position.

The two remaining finalists are David Casto, emergency management coordinator in Pinellas County and the former emergency management officer in Hernando County, and Roberta Sichta, emergency management director in Burnett County, Wisc.

County officials are trying to schedule interviews with Casto and Sichta, De Simone said. Once a decision is made and an offer accepted, it will take be a few weeks before an emergency management director could come on board.

In the meantime, Baker will be the emergency management director on call, ready to step in to orchestrate the response to a hurricane or other natural disaster. If she is on vacation or otherwise unavailable, Johnston will take the lead role, De Simone said.

The emergency management director oversees all aspects of responding to hurricanes and other disasters before, during and after emergencies. When the emergency operations center is activated, such as in the case of an impending hurricane, she calls the shots, instructing department heads and other employees in specially assigned roles and coordinating volunteers.

Baker's first assignment with the county was to respond to the no-name storm of 1993. She received high praise for coordinating relief efforts last year, one of the most active hurricane seasons on record.

Casto has been the emergency management coordinator in Pinellas County since 2000. He also is an adjunct instructor of emergency administration and management at St. Petersburg College Southeastern Public Safety Institute. He worked in Hernando from 1996 to 2000.

Casto received a master's degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix in June 2004. He also has a bachelor's degree in management and human resources and an associate's degree.

Sichta has worked for Burnett County in Wisconsin since 1990 in the human resources and emergency management departments. She was a county board member in Washburn County, Wis., for six years. She has a bachelor's degree in history from Barry University.

Both finalists have extensive experience with homeland security issues.

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