Neal named interim White County EMA director

COVID-19 pandemic has been primary focus during first few weeks

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 A man who has been serving his community in numerous areas for the past several years has been named as the interim director of White County Emergency Management Agency.

Stanley Neal, of Sparta, who also serves as a White County commissioner, recently retired from Cookeville Fire Department after almost three decades of service.

“It is a completely volunteer position,” Neal explained, stating there is no monetary compensation for the work he is doing.

Neal assumed the position of EMA director July 1, replacing Suzi Cash Haston who resigned from the volunteer position to focus on her duties as E-911 director.

Neal will be relying on his vast experience to make changes he hopes will improve the quality of services available to White County in the event of a disaster.

“County Executive Denny Wayne Robinson began talking to me and asked me to take over the position the first week of July,” Neal said. “I plan on making some changes, doing a few things differently to improve our emergency operations center and assist the people that will be involved in it.”

Neal said since he has retired from his full-time job, he would be able to focus all of his attention on the EMA projects.

“I want to make sure that we have a plan in place for any kind of natural – or manmade – disaster,” he said. “We will have plans in place.”

One of those changes addresses the issue of an office.

“When everything changed, offices changed,” he explained. “I’m going to try to have an office up at the airport, but we will keep the Emergency Operations Center at 911. But there is a large room up at the airport, and we could have a secondary EOC if need be, depending on the scope of what is needed to handle what emergency we might be dealing with. I’ve also been working with TEMA [Tennessee Emergency Management Agency] to ensure we have the best policies and procedures possible in place. I have met with them several times over the last few weeks.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been Neal’s primary focus during his first few weeks as White County EMA director.

Neal talked about the primary focus during his first weeks as White County EMA director.

“We are working the COVID-19 pandemic and making sure masks are available to the court systems as they begin in-person proceedings again,” he said, indicating that fire departments, first responders, and medical offices are not the only focus of his plans.

Neal said he accepted the position simply as an interim director and on a short-term basis, but he would not be opposed to staying on as director a little longer if the need arises.

“I don’t like to leave things unfinished,” he said. “So if I get involved in something that I would like to see to fulfillment and the county executive is willing to have me stay on, then I might be willing to keep the position a little longer than we originally planned.”

Neal continued, “I’m looking to make this office work better for the safety of the public – both the residents of White County and the numerous visitors who come through to enjoy the great parks and waterways that we have to offer here. I want to be sure we are providing for that safety in the most professional and effective way.”  

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