Bowers named interim director of EMA

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

   Renee Bowers, who has worked for the Elizabethton/Carter County Emergency Management Agency more than four years, has been named interim director of the EMA office.
   Bowers served as an assistant to EMA Director Jim Burrough, who officially retired April 7 but will remain on the payroll through the end of the fiscal year, using up accrued comp time and vacation days.
   Carter County Executive Dale Fair said Bowers will serve as interim director until the new fiscal year, when she can apply for the director's position.
   Local Emergency Planning Committee Chairman Bob Robinson has been hired on a part-time basis "to help fill in with the office needs and some other assignments and special projects through the end of this fiscal year," Fair said.
   "That's just to keep Renee where she can keep focused on our grants and our status, communications, and being on call -- because our director has to be accessible 24 hours a day," he said.
   Robinson also will take over OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) duties formerly administered by Burrough, and will be paid an hourly rate out of OSHA funds.
   Fair said he surveyed the county's first-responders and "they all feel very comfortable with Renee being put in this interim position. I've cleared it with TEMA. They don't have a problem with it."
   Tennessee Emergency Management Agency requires the local EMA office to be staffed by a full-time employee, and with Burrough still on the payroll, a new EMA director cannot be appointed.
   Normally, City Manager Charles Stahl and County Executive Fair would make the appointment together. However, because Stahl is out of town, Fair said he had to meet with TEMA and "do things in a timely manner because the county basically, in their eyes, was at risk without a director."
   As assistant to EMA Director Burrough, Bowers worked on grants, kept the emergency operation plans for the county up to date, and worked hand in hand with first-responder agencies.
   Bowers has no qualms about assuming the reigns at EMA.
   "My boss has taught me well. I worked closely with Jim and I feel confident that he showed me everything and I can handle it," she said. "I just hope I can keep it."
   Bowers said she plans to apply for the director's position when it becomes available.