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
  • McCarter.jpg Some lawmakers donate pay

    Illinois lawmakers restoring their pay after years of furlough days has prompted some state representatives to give back to their communities — a move some local lawmakers call a political one.

    July 27, 2014 3 Photos

  • Distance learning catching on in area

    In what appears to be a growing trend among rural school districts, a third area school district may join an existing academic cooperative.

    July 27, 2014

  • Joshua Robison.jpg Opinion: God doesn't care about party affiliation

    Reflecting on what we politely refer to in this country as “political discourse,” I am often struck by how convinced many people seem to be that their sides' specific policies and personalities are the only way to save us all from utter ruin.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ron W.jpg Opinion: Column break just that -- a break

    ‘Hey, Ron. You didn’t have a column this week. What’s the deal? It’s the reason I buy a paper on Thursdays.”

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Isom.jpg Opinion: It's about time

    Finally, someone else speaks up and it’s about time.
    I applaud Ron Worman and welcome him to take a seat on my bandwagon. His addressing the proliferation of signs of every description, virtually everywhere one looks, is a welcome additional voice — even though rare.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Feds: Effingham County was meeting place for underage sex tryst

    An Ohio man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he traveled out of state to meet an underage person in Effingham County for sexual activity.

    July 25, 2014

  • Jail inmate attempts suicide

    An unscheduled cell check is credited for saving the life of an Effingham County Jail inmate who tried to hang himself early Thursday morning.

    July 25, 2014

  • Woman injured in Farina collision

    An accident on Washington Street sent one driver to the hospital Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Driver crashes after being forced off road

    A driver crashed after being run off the road by a semi on Interstate 70.

    July 25, 2014

  • Rollover on I-70 sends one to hospital

    An accident on Interstate-70 sent one traveler to the hospital.

    July 25, 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.