Hernandez to head regional emergency services

2/5/2011

Emergency coordinator resigns from Finney County.

Emergency coordinator resigns from Finney County.

By JEROME P. CURRY

jcurry@gctelegram.com

Finney County Emergency Management Coordinator Cathy Hernandez has resigned to accept a position as the southwest regional emergency management coordinator for the state of Kansas.

Her last day on the Finney County job was Friday.

"I report to the state on Monday," she said.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management is a division of the Kansas Adjutant General's Department.

Hernandez now is one of seven state regional coordinators who are state liaisons to counties focusing primarily on disaster preparedness and response.

"Cathy has worked closely with us for a number of years as Finney County emergency manager and is a great addition to the KDEM team," said Angee Morgan, deputy director of the Kansas Department of Emergency Management. "She has a background in emergency response and public safety and understands the needs of the county and the state."

Regional coordinators assist local officials in coordinating preparedness activities and act as a state liaison to establish and maintain links among various planners and community response partners at the local, regional, state and federal levels.

"She did a great job," said Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue, to whom the county emergency coordinator reports. "I've had two excellent emergency management directors. The first director was Dave Jones, who is now a county commissioner. Cathy was his assistant. When Dave decided to retire (after 13 years), we were ready to move Cathy into that position. We knew she would do a great job. She did. Dave Jones and Cathy did such a great job, we didn't have to worry about that office. Finney County was in great hands. We are sorry to see her leave. Finney County is one of the top emergency management counties in the state because of them."

Said Commissioner Jones: "Cathy Hernandez is very dedicated. She has years of experience. She's astute on current technology."

The letter of resignation is dated Jan. 14.

"I will be the liaison between the state and the counties," Hernandez said. "I will be talking with and helping not just emergency managers, but other entities, including emergency medical services and county commissions."

In fact, she said, her first official act as the regional coordinator of the 18-county southwest Kansas district will be a meeting Monday with Finney County commissioners where she will discuss a transfer property agreement for a southwest Kansas homeland security project. After that, she heads for more Monday meetings in Salina.

The regional emergency management office is at the Kansas National Guard Armory in Dodge City. Hernandez plans to commute from Garden City so she and her family can continue living in Garden City and to avoid her 15-year-old son, Mitchell, having to transfer schools.

Hernandez said her salary with the state would be about $45,884 a year; up from $44,179 with the county.

Bascue said interviews have started to find a replacement for Hernandez. The first focus is county workers who want to compete for the position.

"If we do not find someone we want to select from this group, we go outside and there'll be an ad in The Garden City Telegram," he said.

Gilbert Valerio, the current assistant coordinator, has said he is not a candidate to succeed Hernandez, the sheriff reported.

"I visited with Gilbert," Bascue said. "He is pleased with his position now. He does not want to move up at this time."

Hernandez had spent 19 years with the Garden City Police Department before becoming Finney County's assistant coordinator for emergency management in May 2004. When Jones retired in December of 2006, she was promoted to coordinator.

In her first week as the coordinator, Hernandez's initial challenge was a major snow and ice storm that hit as 2006 turned into the new year of 2007. National Weather Service observers called the 2006-07 winter blast historic.

In her later years at the police department, Hernandez said she was a crime analyst who prepared reports on trends and probabilities based on statistics and other data.

"I have a 23-year-old daughter (Kimberly) in Indiana and a 15-year-old son (Mitchell) in Garden," Hernandez said. "I plan to stay and commute to Dodge until he graduates from high school."

Of her time as the Finney County emergency management coordinator, she said: "I've enjoyed working here. I really have. I do part time EMS (Emergency Medical Service). I love the people here. They're great. Had this opportunity not come up, I would have stayed until I retired. We have no idea how fortunate we are in this county — the way people work so well together. I mean everyone."

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