Former Homeland Security and 911 Center Executive Director Al Whitaker “took us all by surprise,” and departed Greenbrier County for a position as a grant administrator in Charleston with the state Homeland Security Department, according to Greenbrier County Commission President Woody Hanna.
He said Whitaker was offered “a better job with better pay, and most importantly less stress. He can now work a nine to five job and go home and be with his family every day.”
Named Top Emergency Manager in the state in 2013, the first southern West Virginia emergency manager to win the award, Whitaker continued to provide leadership in developing emergency operations plans, “going above and beyond all duties and expectations.” said Deputy Director Paula Brown with Greenbrier County’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. “Al is definitely not a ‘daily duties as assigned’ kind of manager. He continually takes on added responsibility and challenges.”
Whitaker’s years of public safety, emergency management and disaster response prepared him for large-scale Greenbrier County events like the State Fair of West Virginia and The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament. He was tapped to serve as hazmat coordinator for the first Boy Scout Jamboree.
But it was during the 2012 Super Derecho and the 2016 flood when Whitaker demonstrated what it means to go “above and beyond,” as he oversaw the 911 Center, coordinated delivery of everything from emergency generators and fuel to distribution of National Guardsmen and volunteers to rescue and recover flood victims. He was on the job day and night.
“(O)ne would be hard-pressed to find a harder worker, more dedicated, or more knowledgeable public safety professional in West Virginia,” Brown said when she nominated him to be top emergency manager in the state.
Whitaker’s experience in large-scale events goes back before his job in Greenbrier County, when he was involved in the state’s emergency planning during a Rainbow Family gathering and when evacuees from Louisiana arrived in West Virginia after Hurricane Katrina.
When he was 16 years old, Whitaker joined the Marfrance volunteer fire department and nine years later began his career in fire and ambulance service in western Greenbrier County. He has since worked in the emergency response field in several areas of the state, including Raleigh County, where he currently makes his home.
The county commission has posted a request for resumes to fill Whitaker’s shoes as emergency management and 911 director. The job requirements are lengthy and the expectations are high.
At an impromptu gathering at Landings Restaurant at the Greenbrier Valley Airport last Friday, Airport Manager Stephen Snyder, Airport Director of Public Safety James Hylton and County Commissioner Mike McClung, along with law officials, including Sheriff Bruce Sloan, first responders and fire fighters, offered a tribute to Whitaker. “Al’s gave his heart and soul to this community,” said Snyder.
“Every time there’s a disaster or an event demanding leadership and expertise, he’s given and given. We all owe Al a debt – he’s earned it,” Snyder said.