Routt County losing 2 emergency response department heads to retirement
Steamboat Springs — Routt County Manager Tom Sullivan reports receiving retirement letters from two department heads who have played a significant role in ensuring the safety of the county’s residents.
Routt County Director of Emergency Management Bob Struble, who has been in that role since 2009 and before that was the city of Steamboat Springs assistant fire chief, said Oct. 7 will be his last day on the job. And Emergency Communications Director Doug Brown has turned in his retirement papers after two-and-a-half years on the job. His last day will be Sept. 30.
Struble, who was with the Steamboat fire department for 29 years, said he began thinking a year ago about his personal goals and his desire to pursue them in retirement.
“There are things I still want to accomplish while I have my health,” Struble said. “I want to travel. We’ve been going to Europe the last three years on cycling trips. Our last trip we rode the Costa Brava (in Spain).”
Struble’s role at the county required him to plan for dozens of contingencies, from floods to possible commercial airline accidents. He acknowledged that, at times, all of the different things that might go wrong kept him awake at night.
“I think our biggest concern here is wildland fire,” Struble said. “We pretty much know where our high water is going to be. I’m sitting here watching the Silver Creek Fire (east of Oak Creek), and it’s putting up a lot of smoke right now.”
Struble’s predecessor, Chuck Vale, currently serving as the northwest regional field manager for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said an emergency manager is always on call.
“Bob and I have been together over 40 years,” Vale said. “You’re almost always on duty. We have this thing called ‘all hazards.’ It’s wildfire and flooding, a high-rise fire, and water emergencies within a town. We’ve been in Yampa, Oak Creek and Steamboat in water emergencies several times. It’s mass casualty, evacuation, sheltering.”
And in a resort town like Steamboat, the population turns over frequently, requiring an emergency manager to continuously be an educator, Vale added.
However, the biggest part of the job of being county emergency manager is preparedness and writing contingency plans, Vale said. Colorado law requires emergency managers to develop and consistently update emergency operations plans.
“Bob fit into the role really well,” Vale said. “He understood the county, its people and the response community and the politics of this community.”
Brown came to Steamboat from Columbia County, Florida, in March 2014, succeeding Tim McMenamin, who served in the job for four years. Brown had a 20-year Army career, leaving the service as a communications chief.
Sullivan said Brown excelled at understanding the county’s microwave and radio systems, which were relied upon for communication among county departments in the field.
Sullivan is counting on communications administrative assistant Karrie Littman to oversee employees and operations at the department that dispatches law enforcement, fire and ambulance crews on service calls. She will do so under the supervision of Assistant County Manager Dan Weinheimer until Brown’s permanent replacement is in place, Sullivan said.
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