Nation’s Longest-Tenured Emergency Management Director Retires
Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, is retiring after 30 years of working with the department, Barbara Hoberock writes for Tulsa World. The state has weathered a whopping 188 federal disaster declarations, with Ashwood serving as director for 75 percent of them. In other words, Albert Ashwood has pretty much seen it all in terms of emergency management. And when you’ve managed the amount of disasters that Albert has, you’re bound to have picked up a few things.
What we can learn from Ashwood’s experience
Ashwood’s advice for other emergency managers? “Don’t worry about the people above you,” he said. “Worry about the people below that need help.”
This seasoned emergency management director has walked with Oklahoma officials and citizens through “terrorist acts, tornadoes, ice storms, wildfires, and floods,” Hoberock reports. He also assisted in organizing a debris management plan after the Sept. 11 attack. However, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing remains most vivid in his memory. His sister-in-law died with 167 others in the explosion, and Ashwood arrived at the scene 25 minutes after it happened.
Albert Ashwood has also dealt with some stranger crises. For example, when the Cimarron River began eroding, and conservationalists added tires to stop the banks from eroding, rats flocked to the tires. Then, people living in homes in the area reported rat infestations, Hoberock writes. Ashwood said that when his television interview ran, “it was edited down to where my face was there, and the only thing I said was ‘the river is going to do what the river is going to do,'” he said. “My entire family got a big kick out of that.”
Ashwood’s retirement plans
Upon retirement, Oklahoma’s former emergency management director plans to live a quieter life enjoying his 160-acre property in Chandler. “When we have the first disaster after I am retired, and no one wants to know my opinion, it might be a little difficult,” Ashwood said. “But I think I will get over it.”
Oklahoma’s new emergency management director
Moving forward, the state of Oklahoma will not be left without an experienced leader directing emergency response’s to disasters. As a result of Ashwood’s retirement, Governor Mary Fallin has named Michelann Ooten the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management’s new director. Ooten has already served as the department’s deputy director for 17 years. Therefore, we can expect the high quality of Oklahoma’s emergency responses to continue for the foreseeable future.