Herbert Reeves named interim EMA director

Published 3:00 am Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Pike County Commission has named Herbert Reeves, dean of student services at Troy University, as the interim director of the Pike County Emergency Management Agency.

The commission called a special meeting Wednesday to approve the resignation of former EMA director Jeanna Barnes and choose an interim director to hold onto federal funding.

“If there is not a qualified interim director established, then you have a chance to lose state and federal funding and we don’t need to risk that, especially right now,” said county administrator Harry Sanders. “Hopefully, none of these hurricanes come in the back door while we’re trying to bridge that gap.”

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Barnes turned in a letter of resignation last week that took effect today. Barnes said in a statement that she was resigning for personal medical reasons.

“We are thankful for the services she gave to Pike County,” said Robin Sullivan, chairman of the commission. “It takes a lot of time. You really have to work when a disaster comes through here. That person continuously has to be up and be alert and updating other people and she did that job very well. It’s not a 7-5 job. I’ve been out with her as late as midnight before covering an ice storm. Those are the kinds of things that people don’t see.”

Barnes had served in the role for seven years and also volunteered with the EMA before that time.

Under Barnes’ direction, the Pike County EMA created a Facebook page that now has the most followers of the 10 Southeast Alabama counties and started a mass notification system that sends various weather and other alerts to users phones or emails.

The commission, minus Charlie Harris, unanimously accepted Barnes’ resignation. Harris was absent.

The commission then unanimously chose Reeves as the interim replacement for the position. Sanders said that it has not yet been decided what Reeves will be paid, if anything.

“I am sure there are limitations since he’s a university employee and I’m assuming that means he is a state employee,” Sanders said. “There’s a possibility that he won’t be compensated at all, but will perform duties on a volunteer basis. There’s no date for sure that it will be determined by.”

After approving Reeves to serve in the role for the time being, the commissioners discussed the possibility of creating an EMA board in the future and established an interim board to assist in the full-time hire.

“In talking with Sheriff’s Department, Troy Police, Troy Fire, Troy University and regional EMA folks, a couple of things have been brought up,” said Russell Johnson, District 6. “Stakeholders in the community, first responders actually having to go out and deal with these issues in the county, asked in the very least in the interim that we appoint an interim committee of the stakeholders to help us vet the next hire so each of these departments can look at the credentials of the new person so they can service all off these responder groups adequately.”

The suggested board would have seven members including a mayor or other representative from Troy, Brundidge, Goshen and Banks, Troy University and the Pike County Commission. The other member will be the EMA director.

“We wanted to try and go in a different direction where we didn’t just have one person that reports to the Pike County Commission because this person actually serves everybody­ first responders need to have an input in who we have,” Sullivan said.”They will serve not just the commission, but other entities as well. We don’t need one person that’s good for the city or the university, but that’s good for all of those things.”

Commissioners said Reeves would not represent the university on the board.

The commission moved to create the interim board, but no timeline was decided upon for the committee to be created or when it will meet. The director position must be advertised 28 days before the board could make a new hire.

“I think we’ve always been involved with EMA on certain levels all worked together any time there’s an emergency or necessity and resources and we do a contracted services with EMA every year,” said Troy mayor Jason Reeves. “I think this will be a different level and I think in the interim we’ll work together as a county and as a community and make sure that we’re ready to respond to any emergency that may come our way.”

The Pike County Commission will meet Monday, September 11 for their regular meeting upstairs at the Pike County Health Department. The work session will begin at 5:15 p.m. and will be followed by the business meeting at 6 p.m. The commission will go into budget hearings directly afterwards.

There will also be another special meeting of the commission Wednesday, September 13 to discuss the Pike Area Transit System.