County hires emergency manager

FAIRMONT – Martin County commissioners have approved the hire of LuAnn Akers as emergency management director.

Commissioners had tabled the hiring at their last meeting, citing the need to talk more with Sheriff Jeff Markquart about the decision.

“I have since spoke with each of you individually, and I hope I have answered any questions and addressed your concerns,” Markquart said Tuesday while addressing commissioners.

“I think it will be a great thing for the county, having someone full time and keeping the continuity instead of someone starting brand new,” he said.

Akers has worked in the Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher for several years, and also was handling emergency management duties.

While commissioners were not opposed to Akers, there has been apprehension about the new position.

“I still don’t know what’s going to change,” said Commissioner Steve Pierce. “We’ve spent all this time looking at the budget, we’ve cut spending and overtime, and now with this, we’re leap-frogging … I still don’t buy that we need a full-time disaster person.”

Some of the cost is covered by grants, but whether the funding is available only if the position is full time has been unclear.

“I still have some reservation,” admitted Commissioner Dan Schmidtke. “But we have to respect the sheriff and his decision.”

“We chose to put this position under the sheriff instead of making it a department head,” added Commissioner Elliot Belgard. “I was involved with the interview process. We trusted the sheriff and he has done things the way we asked.”

But the board also acknowledged it wants more than just the status quo for the position.

“There [are] going to be some high expectations of this position,” Schmidtke said.

Markquart said he is confident that having a full-time emergency management director is a step in the right direction, in case disaster does strike.