Homeland security director planning for retirement
KEARNEYSVILLE – After 15 years, Jefferson County’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director is planning to step down. Barbara Miller announced her intent to retire at the end of the year during the department’s quarterly partnership luncheon last Thursday.
Miller took her first steps into the emergency planning process for Jefferson County when she joined the county staff in 2002 as the Project Impact Coordinator. The position was part of a FEWMA grant-funded program, “Building Disaster Resistant Communities.” The program, Miller said, provided a means to accomplish four things including building partnerships and promoting whole community involvement; assessing the community’s risk to natural disasters, predominately flooding; setting priorities and targeting resources to reduce the impact of disasters; and creating public awareness activities that were focused on preparing for disasters before they happened.
The position was funded by a FEMA grant and was scheduled to last about 18 months.
“As the funding for Project Impact began to go away, the County Commission saw a need for a local Homeland Security office and created it to work alongside of their Emergency Management in 2007,” Miller explained. “The county provides the department with a budget, a portion of which they receive in reimbursement from FEMA.”
Over the years, Miller has never lacked work. She has spent countless hours planning, writing policy and procedures, instructing others and manning Emergency Operations Centers during multiple events including floods, snowstorms and a derecho.
No matter what the work of the day, Miller said that highlights of her career in Jefferson County center around the partnerships that have been created between all of the agencies.
“Representatives of the various agencies all come together to plan, to train, to participate in disaster exercise, to respond to the everyday and the extraordinary, and to find the solutions to protect the lives and property of our residents, as well as the environment,” she said.
Listing just a few of the events that stood out in her memory, Miller included the Downburst in Ranson in the summer of 2007, the 2010 Valentine’s Day snowstorm; the 2012 derecho and superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“It was also an honor to be able to go to Greenbrier County in the summer of 2016 to assist in their Emergency Operations Center (EOC) after the Southern West Virginia flooding,” Miller shared.
IN her esteemed career, Miller was recognized by being named the 2012 West Virginia Emergency Manager of the year. In addition, she praised her staff for receiving accreditation through the West Virginia Emergency Management Accreditation Program.
“I am a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) through the International Association of Emergency Managers and a Certified Floodplain Manager through the Association of Floodplain Managers (CFM). All of these things have enabled me to serve the community better,” she added.
When asked what Miller saw as her greatest accomplishment as director in Jefferson County, she said, “I am most proud that Jefferson County has attained a Class 6 in the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program.”
“That equals a 20 percent discount on flood insurance premiums,” she said.
Prior to coming to Jefferson County, Miller served as Project Impact Coordinator for Randolph and Tucker counties where the Project Impact program was a pilot.
“There we were able to develop one of the first Risk Assessment and Mitigation plans in the state,” she explained.
After her Dec. 31 retirement, Miller will remain in West Virginia, her home state, but she and husband, Steve will relocate to North Central West Virginia, nearer to their grandchildren.
“I plan to spend an abundance of time hiking and playing in the mountains,” Miller said. “I plan to explore streams and trails, geocache, attend West Virginia Black Bears baseball games and remember the reasons I love West Virginia.”
But show won’t completely step away from emergency management.
“I have been working alongside others in a national group, the Resilient Neighbors Network, to develop and deliver a Disaster Risk Reduction Ambassador Curriculum. I also hope to be involved with delivering training to emergency managers and sharing what I know to help build the next generation of emergency managers,” she said.
While excited for the next phase in her life, Miller said that she will miss those who have served along with her over the years.
“There are many people I know I can call at 2 a.m. and they will be there for whatever is needed. They know I will do the same for them,” Miller added. “This county is blessed with many wonderful people and I have had the honor to serve with many of them during my time here.”