Three first responders from Routt County are among the five finalists vying to fill Chuck Vale's former position as county emergency management director. The other two finalists, chosen from 57 applicants, have previous emergency management experience but are from out of state, County Manager Tom Sullivan said.
The county's emergency management director is responsible for development and implementation of Routt County's emergency preparedness program, and participates in hazard identification and mitigation, and emergency and disaster response, recovery and management, according to the position's job description.
The local candidates know Routt County, have some emergency management training and have taken part in training exercises, Sullivan said.
Although many applicants had academic or government experience, including with the Department of Defense or Department of Homeland Security, the county did not choose to pursue first responder-candidates who weren't locals, Sullivan said.
"If I'm going to hire someone who's a first responder, who's qualified as far as our criteria go, then why would I even waste my time bringing in somebody from outside the state?" Sullivan said.
The out-of-state candidates have more direct emergency management experience but less local knowledge, he said. One of them is from a mountain state and has wildfire experience, something that many of the applicants lacked, Sullivan said.
An interview committee will conduct in-person interviews later this month, Sullivan said. The county hopes to have its next emergency management director in place by April, before Routt County's high-water season begins.
Vale vacated the position in early January to take a state-level job with the Colorado Division of Emergency Management. The job includes providing technical assistance to local agencies in the state's 10-county northwest region before, during and after major emergencies and natural disasters.
The state's northwest region serves Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties. Vale said he's put in 3,000 road miles since starting his new job Jan. 12.
The job also includes offering training activities, developing and validating emergency plans, and improving interagency cooperation. He recently has been working with the 10 counties to develop their annual operating plans for wildfire season, Vale said Thursday.
It has been "eye-opening" to see how all the counties have similar concerns whether drought will strike when they have homes in threatened wildland/urban interface areas, and tons of dead trees because of the bark beetle epidemic, Vale said.
The northwest region as a whole also is worried about trickle-down effects from county-level budget cuts, should catastrophic wildfire occur, Vale said. Even if cuts do not limit manpower, they likely will affect training, planning and equipment, he said.