Lee County EMA logo

Lee County EMA logo

Chris Tate has turned down the opportunity to run Lee County’s Emergency Management Agency.

Lee County commissioners voted publicly Monday night to offer Tate the job; however, he responded with a letter Wednesday telling them that he and his family decided to remain in Jefferson County.

Tate wrote that he and his family make decisions together and, ultimately, they decided to decline the offer.

“We are extremely fortunate that so many of you were looking forward to us coming back, and we are equally fortunate that we have jobs that will do what they can to retain us,” he said. “With this new information, we were forced to quickly reevaluate the current situation and made the determination that staying in Jefferson County was the best for our family right now.”

Rita Smith, who is Lee County EMA’s emergency management specialist, public information officer and grant manager, also had a public interview with the commission for the job. She told the Opelika-Auburn News on Wednesday night that she is “waiting to hear from Lee County Commission” and did not comment further.

Tate worked for former Lee County EMA Director Kathy Carson until taking the Jefferson County job in October 2017.

He stated he was touched by the job offer and public reaction to it.

“I am truly humbled by the outpouring of support for not only myself coming back to Lee County, but for my family as well,” Tate said in a Facebook post. “We have been overwhelmed with calls, texts, and messages congratulating us on this news. It is a wonderful feeling to know you have this type of support and trust of not only the Lee County Commission, but of many of the department heads, public safety officials, and citizens.”

The commission voted 3-2 to hire Tate. County Administrator Roger Rendleman said Commissioner Johnny Lawrence, the search committee chairman, will likely put the search on the Feb. 24 commission meeting agenda.

“The Commission, as a whole, could consider other candidate interviewed, request the interview committee send more name(s) for consideration, start the process again or determine to pursue a completely different process,” Rendleman said. 

Carson resigned in November 2019 after county officials determined she didn’t follow county rules when buying a new utility vehicle for her department.

“Having Chris Tate and his family return to Lee County would have a great addition, for not just Lee County EMA, but the community as a whole,” Rendleman said. “After speaking with him, I know it was a very difficult decision; however, he is putting family first which is very admirable.”

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