Steamboat Springs Wildfire preparedness and other issues associated with the mountain pine beetle epidemic will be the primary concern of incoming Routt County Emergency Management Director Bob Struble, who is leaving his post as Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue assistant chief later this month.
The county's emergency management director is responsible for development and implementation of Routt County's emergency preparedness program. The director also participates in hazard identification and mitigation, and emergency and disaster response, recovery and management, according to the position's job description.
"I think it will be a really critical year with the bark beetle," said County Commissioner Doug Monger, who noted the county's need to adopt a state-mandated Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
The mountain pine beetle killed more trees in Routt County than anywhere else in Colorado in recent years, leaving behind a worrying glut of dry fuel. Of the 1.16 million impacted acres across the state, 245,000 are in Routt County, according to aerial research conducted in 2008 by the U.S. and Colorado State forest services.
"Since the years I've been here (Struble has) worked intricately with the fire protection districts," County Manager Tom Sullivan said. "Bob's got the credentials. He's got the experience. He's got the training we were looking for."
Struble was chosen from a pool of 57 applicants. Sullivan interviewed 14 of them by phone, and a committee interviewed four in person.
"I was really pleased that Bob came out on top," Sullivan said.
County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, a member of the interview committee, said the group was pleased not only with Struble's longevity as a local and familiarity with Routt County, but also with his statewide experience and contacts.
"He also is held in great esteem and respect by all the emergency professionals he'll need to work with," Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said.
Struble is a member of the Northwest Colorado Incident Management Team. Last year, he helped staff the State Emergency Operations Center in Centennial during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver.
Struble said he was happy to advance his career at home.
"I've always been interested in emergency services," Struble said. "The opportunity came along, and the opportunity to do it in Routt County is a great opportunity."
The commissioners also recognized emergency management administrative assistant Cheryl Dalton, who is the only other staff member in the department and took on added responsibilities in recent months.
"She can hardly wait to have a boss again," Stahoviak joked.
Steamboat Springs City Manager Jon Roberts said the city, which has a hiring freeze and pay cuts of its own, still is evaluating whether to fill the assistant fire chief position.
Struble's county salary has not been set, Sullivan said. Sullivan said he plans to ask the county commissioners Tuesday to approve a salary of $77,000 for Struble. Despite 10 percent countywide pay cuts approved last week, Sullivan said that whatever salary is approved will not be assessed a 10 percent cut. Sullivan noted the critical nature of the position, the fact Struble is taking a pay cut to accept it and that the county will save more than $17,000 this year in emergency management personnel costs.
The emergency management director position was not subject to a countywide hiring freeze because former director Chuck Vale vacated it prior to the Feb. 10 effective date of the freeze.