COLUMBIA — The Public Safety Joint Communication advisory committee appointed Scott Olsen to the position of interim Emergency Management Director at Wednesday’s quarterly meeting.
Olsen, the Boone County Fire Protection District Chief, will fill the position left empty when Capt. Zim Schwartze, former manager of Public Safety Joint Communication, was placed on administrative leave May 9.
In an effort to increase the emphasis on emergency management, the committee is looking for ways to eliminate and then restructure the directorial positions of the emergency management and joint communication branches.
According to City Manager Mike Matthes, Olsen was willing to step forward to lead the department during the interim period and “is supremely qualified for the position.”
As emergency management director, Olsen and the Fire Department will handle issues such as disaster preparedness measures, grants and community education and coordination during the six-month interim period.
“The reality is that the emergency management position does do a lot and should do a lot to prepare the community for disasters,” said Joe Piper, acting operations manager. Through the Fire Department, Olsen has background in both emergency management and responding to disasters.
Before Schwartze’s departure, she directed both joint communications and emergency management, a branch that had no staff. Schwartze focused on the emergency management while Piper, who was formerly Administrative Services Manager, and Donna Hargis, a former Operations Manager who recently retired, managed the joint communications department and 911 center.
Last year, joint communications spent $61,000 more than its allotted budget, Matthes said, and it was running out of money. To save money, Matthes terminated Schwartze’s position earlier this month.
After Schwartze’s departure and Hargis’s retirement, all three tasks fell onto Piper. “I am overwhelmed here,” Piper said.
“All I’m doing is taking a load off Joe,” Olsen said.
Piper said Sheriff Dwayne Carey will also aid him by providing direction and assisting with operational issues.
Having Olsen take over the emergency management position gives Piper the opportunity to focus on how to better fund and staff the 911 center, Piper said. During the interim session, the committee will search for ways to restructure the emergency management and joint communications branches. Meanwhile, Olsen emphasized, “Things will continue on as they have.”
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