Thomson takes job in Sioux Falls, has 'a lot of fond memories'
By JANE UTECHT, Staff Reporter
Resigning from his Lake County job was a tough decision for Don Thomson.|
"I wish I could have stayed here another 10-15 years," Thomson said.
After 12 years as the county Emergency Management Director and Veterans Services Officer, Thomson said he has "a lot of fond memories."
His resignation is effective on Nov. 4, and then he begins a new job with the Sioux Falls Regional Veterans Affairs Office. Thomson will be working with veterans in the tri-state area and county veterans service officers.
"It should be fun," he said.
Many parts of his Lake County job were enjoyable, he said.
He enjoyed working with the municipal governments, township officials and county emergency agencies. But the brightest part of his time with the county was working with REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Team).
"Some of those guys are worth their weight in gold," Thomson said. "You could call and they'd be there. During storms, they are the first line of defense."
The REACT volunteers "put in thousands of miles a year," he said, using their own vehicles, their own radios and their own gas, "to be able to tell the spotters which way to go first.
``The technology is all good, but you can't beat the eyes on the ground," Thomson said. "You can tell by their tone of voice how [the weather situation] is changing."
REACT members also help law enforcement with traffic control. "That would be the last group you would ever want to get rid of," he added.
Summer storms are just one facet of emergency management; there have also been floods, blizzards and the 2008 bus accident. The challenges with these situations has been in "determining how to react to a major emergency," Thomson said. "Being prepared is important."
Thomson's work history has prepared him well to work with veterans. He is a veteran himself, having spent 27 years with the National Guard and the active Guard Reserve. He has been with the Lake County Veterans Service Office since 2001.
He expects to put in 10 to 15 years with his new position, and then, because "I won't be ready to retire," he expects to volunteer at the Veterans Hospital.
"Working with the veterans [can be] both rewarding and depressing," he said. With a lot of the veterans, it is cut and dried as to the benefits they were entitled to. For those who were borderline, it could be frustrating not being able to do something to help them.
"I'd do whatever I could," he said.
Lake County Commission Chairman Scott Pedersen was a bit surprised by Thomson's resignation, but the commission will formally accept the resignation at next week's meeting. In the meantime, inquiries are being directed to the county Auditor's Office. Auditor Bobbi Janke is handling emails and questions with the assistance of some of the services involved.
The commissioners are also currently reviewing the job description and will advertise the position after discussion at their Nov. 5 meeting. For the time being, they plan to keep the job mix at 85 percent EMA and 15 percent veterans services. Pedersen said it is possible that may change.
"What will dictate that is the applicants and their qualifications," he said.
The county's goal is to fill the position soon, Pedersen said, but a realistic and reasonable expectation is to have a new person in place by the beginning of 2014.
Pedersen said Thomson did a good job, and the commission will "wish him the best in his new endeavor."
©Madison Daily Leader 2013
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