As the icy ground outside the courthouse continued to thaw Tuesday morning, Grayson County commissioners showed their appreciation for recognition the County’s Office of Emergency Management Director Sarah Somers recently received from the Emergency Management Association of Texas.
In addition, the Court declared this week Severe Weather Awareness Week in the county and approved a few other items of business.
“I think it is appropriate that I put this on the agenda for today as it kind marks the downhill slide of my tenure (as Grayson County judge), and one of the things I am most proud of is where we’ve come collectively as a team under the auspices of Emergency Management,” said Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum introducing the discussion of the award.
“I have been preaching to the Court that we not only have successes here in the county, but we are having successes and meeting matrices that the state of Texas has put out, and we are doing things that the state of Texas have asked, and we are doing things that the state of Texas hadn’t even thought of and that are becoming of the matrices and S.O.P.s of the state of Texas and it is because of Sarah Somers,” Bynum continued.
He told the commissioners that Somers had “kept us in the hunt. She has kept us in the hunt for money. She has kept us in the hunt for the right way to do things.”
Last week, Bynum said, Somers traveled to Austin and received the presidents award for outstanding contribution to Emergency Management to the state of Texas from EMAT.
“We want to recognize her on behalf of what her and her team have done for the state of Texas and specifically for Grayson County because we do have a very dynamic emergency management program and we are very very proud,” Bynum said.
Somers said, “The reason they were really recognizing us is something that was, again, a team effort from the local level that addressed a problem at the local, state and federal level.” She then explained that language in the Texas Disaster Act actually limited the ways in which Texas counties could qualify for federal aid after disasters.
“We became aware, Judge Bynum and I became aware, that we have some incredible relationships with (Rep.) Larry Phillips for one and Sen. (Craig) Estes and working through them where other groups had not been able to do the work, little ol’ Grayson County pushed through the changes that needed to be done in the Texas Disaster Act and that is the foundation and the reason why the award was really considered,” she said.
“But the point of it all was that we can effect change. We can make things better. Heck Judge Bynum and I fought like cats and dogs when I was over at the COG and now he and I have put our heads together and made things better for Grayson County. It’s not so much about one person or any of that. It’s the never give up; bringing all of the people that we need to together and that we can do things that make difference.
“The changes we made to the Texas Disaster Act is predicted to bring millions of dollars back in to the state of Texas coffers because we had made our law to restrictive and actually made it hard to get FEMA disaster money.”
She said the award wasn’t really about her. “It was about a big old team working together and figuring out who could carry the ball forward for the team.”
At that point, Commissioner David Whitlock interrupted her.
“You’re too modest,” he said.
“Most of this Court, as far as I am concerned thinks a lot of you. You have done an excellent job. You work your tail off. You get less sleep than anybody I know of. Whomever we have as the new county judge better be ready to work with you because as far as I am concerned you’re here as long as you need a job,” he continued.
Commissioner Phyllis James added, “absolutely.”
“Well, that’s very sweet,” Somers said.
“I will say, I hope the future holds someone who holds emergency management in as high a priority as Judge Bynum has. You’re only as good as your leader and boss will let you be. He has been that kind of guy so thank you judge Bynum for actually making it possible.”
“All right,” Bynum said. “Let’s dry some tears and move along.”
In addition to honoring Somers, commissioners also approved the following:
• a request to do a road bore on Spalding Road in Precinct 3;
• a request to allow Commissioner Jeff Whitmire to submit the Texas Infrastructure Grant;
• a request to approve renewal of the County’s membership in the TEX21 program.
Commissioners also heard an update from the Texas Association of Counties and Blue Cross and Blue Shield regarding wellness programs the County might want to introduce or publicise to their employees.