The search for Lee County’s new EMA director may resume soon, according to County Commissioner Johnny Lawrence.
Chris Tate turned down the job Wednesday, just two days after he and currently county EMA Administrator Rita Smith publicly interviewed with Lee County commissioners. They voted 3-2 to offer Tate the job Monday night.
“We’ve got to move forward now, and it’s going to be with deliberate thought,” Lawrence said. “We’re not going to just jump and make a decision. We’ve got a little bit of time here before the next commission meeting to put some ideas together and some options for the commission to consider as we move towards making that decision or taking any action on the last meeting of the month.”
Tate told the commissioners in writing Wednesday that he and his family decided to stay in Jefferson County.
County Administrator Roger Rendleman said Lawrence 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.
Lawrence said the March 3 , 019, tornadoes brought awareness to the need for EMA services.
“Your Emergency Management Agency (should perform) at their very best,” Lawrence said. “That should be our daily expectations, and the goal that I have is to try and bring the right person forward that can help take us to that level and even further for a number of years.”
Tate works for the Jefferson County EMA. He joined that agency in October 2017 after 10 years with Lee County’s emergency management effort.
“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,” Tate 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.”
Rendleman and Lawrence sounded sympathetic to Tate’s decision.
“Having Chris Tate and his family return to Lee County would have (been) 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.”
“We certainly wish (Tate) and his family well as they move forward,” Lawrence said.
Smith is Lee County EMA’s emergency management specialist, public information officer and grant manager. 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 under former Lee County EMA director Kathy Carson until going to Jefferson County. Carson held the job until November when she resigned after county officials determined she didn’t follow county rules when buying a new utility vehicle for her department.