Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Local News

January 25, 2013

Thomas to retire as EMA director

EFFINGHAM — Russ Thomas could have retired last year as director of the Effingham County Emergency Management Agency.

But Thomas, who turned 66 last month, is finishing out his term as president of the Illinois Association of Emergency Management Agencies. Once that term has expired, however, he is retiring as the county's longtime EMA chief, effective June 30.

Thomas announced his retirement Thursday at the County Board's Public Safety Committee meeting. He told committee members he wanted to give them plenty of time to find a replacement.

"This gives me time to train him or her," Thomas said.

Thomas said his successor should be well-versed in electronics and emergency management techniques.

"He will have to be kind of a techno geek," he said. "He's got to know all about equipment, and he's got to be able to sit in front of a computer for hours at a time to do paperwork."

Thomas told the committee he's not completely going away.

"After I retire, I will stay on as an emergency management volunteer," he said. "It's been a real pleasure serving the people of Effingham County."

County officials told Thomas he would be missed.

"I don't know how we're going to replace you," said board member David Campbell. "Do you have a twin brother or sister?"

Board member Rob Arnold suggested Thomas should be involved in the search for a successor. Thomas said three county EMA volunteers have already expressed an interest in the job, which pays about $40,000 per year.

Thomas said after the meeting that his interest in emergency management came from his interest in electronics. After graduating from Stewardson-Strasburg High School, Thomas attended an electronics school in Louisville, Ky., for two years before joining the Navy during the height of the Vietnam War era.

After four years in the Navy, Thomas ran the first-ever Radio Shack in Effingham before opening a citizens band radio shop in 1975. As time went on, he began taking emergency management classes.

Thomas said the emergency management push in Effingham County began in earnest after a big train wreck in 1995.

"The organizational response to that wreck didn't go well," he recalled. "When (the late) Mark Percival became chairman of the county board, he approached me about becoming a part-time EMA director."

Thomas continued to run the CB Shop for several years after becoming a part-time EMA chief in 1997. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and a renewed interest in emergency management.

"There was so much grant money coming in that I went to the board and asked them to either let me hire an assistant or allow me to work full time," he said.

The board chose the latter and Thomas went full time in 2004.

Thomas said there's no doubt he'll miss the job.

"I'll particularly miss working with volunteer firefighters," he said. "They give so much to their communities, and it's a good feeling to know I can help them out. I will also miss the friends I've made in the emergency management community."

Thomas' work is so well respected that the county's Emergency Operations Plan is used as a template for other counties throughout the state.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • N1312P17015C.TIF Two cents on minimum wage increase TONY HUFFMANDaily NewsA ballot measure that will give Illinois voters the opportunity to vote on a nonbinding referendum, which could lead to a $10 minimum hourly wage statewide, has brought ire by some and adoration by others.Local business advocate

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Church Briefs Centenary UMCCentenary United Methodist Church, Effingham, will host the following activities:• Sunday, July 27: Connection Time, 10 a.m.; Lavender Ridge Worship, 2 p.m.; Youth Group, 6 p.m.• Monday, July 28: Quilters, 9 a.m.• Tuesday, July 29: Brook

    July 25, 2014

  • Late-winter deer season extinct in area counties

    Hunters in Cumberland and Fayette counties may need to seek treatment for their late-winter deer fever.

    July 24, 2014

  • 7-23 crossroads walker.jpg Walking for life

    A group of nine Crossroads Walkers braved temperatures approaching 90 degrees Tuesday to walk from Greenville to Effingham as part of a cross-country walk designed to call attention to the pro-life movement..

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Concealed-Carry-Clothing-Suit-Jacket-400.jpg Concealed carry objections addressed

    In an effort to offer reasoning behind denials for concealed carry permits, Illinois State Police is assisting the Concealed Carry License Review Board in implementing additional measures to regulate the permit process.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Concealed carry objections addressed

    In an effort to offer reasoning behind denials for concealed carry permits, Illinois State Police is assisting the Concealed Carry License Review Board in implementing additional measures to regulate the permit process.

    July 22, 2014

  • Jay Miller faces more charges after alleged jailhouse attack

    An Altamont man already facing a minimum of 15 years in prison for contributing to the heroin overdose death of an Effingham woman in February could be facing even more prison time after allegedly attacking another inmate in the Effingham County Jail visitation room this past weekend.

    July 21, 2014

  • MIller, Jay C 021314.jpg Jay Miller attacks trial witness

    An Effingham County Jail inmate is facing additional charges after allegedly assaulting another inmate.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vehicle overturns in accident on I-70

    An accident on Interstate 70 sent one driver over a guardrail and down an embankment near Altamont.

    July 20, 2014

  • Three drivers injured in Vandalia accident

    A four vehicle accident in Fayette County sent three drivers to hospitals.

    July 20, 2014

AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.