EMA nominee may come next week

Staff Writer

Clay County Supervisors and West Point Selectmen could get a recommendation as early as next week for a new emergency management director to replace retiring director Kerrie Gentry-Blissard.

Six candidates for the position were interviewed Thursday by Lowndes County EMA Director Cindy Lawrence, Oktibbeha County Director Kristen Campanella and Pontotoc County Director Ricky Jaggers. The three will decide on a recommendation and notify the Clay County Emergency Management Advisory Council.

Sheriff Eddie Scott, Police Chief Avery Cook, Fire Chief Ken Wilbourne, West Point Mayor Robbie Robinson, Supervisors Board President Lynn Horton and Selectmen Leta Turner and William Binder sat in on the interviews, which last more than half the day Thursday, but did not ask questions.

“It went well, it was a good process and we think we had some good applicants,” said Scott, who chairs the advisory council.

The group hopes to have the selection approved by the two local governing bodies at their meetings May 7 and May 8.

The names of the applicants and the final recommendation won't be made public until someone is hired to protect those who have not notified employers.

Gentry-Blissard, a 29-year veteran of emergency management, is retiring June 30, but is taking accumulated leave for much of June.

The director oversees a $91,000 budget which includes salary, supplies, training and a variety of other expenses. The budget falls under West Point city government and 15 percent to 20 percent of the job is assisting with fire department administration.

The city and county hope to hire someone already EMA certified so they "will be that much ahead of the game," Scott said.

Among other things, the certification assists in applying for state and federal emergency management grants. The city also receives a $21,000 reimbursement from the state if the director is certified, Robinson said.