Wearing two hats: Fire marshal to serve dual role as emergency management coordinator

Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller (left) will be serving in a dual role as director of the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management. Taking on the new workload means he will be relying more on Assistant Fire Marshal Nat Holcomb (right).

Liberty County Fire Marshal Bill Hergemueller just got a lot busier. On Monday, during a Commissioners Court workshop, commissioners gave their informal approval to Hergemueller also serving as the coordinator for the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management. Commissioners will formally vote on it at a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

“It’s nothing I haven’t done before. I don’t know all of the systems and procedures used by the OEM yet but I didn’t know them all when I walked into the fire marshal’s office. We developed and put together a pretty comprehensive program, and I expect to do the same for the OEM,” Hergemueller said.

Hergemueller believes his 30 years of experience as a firefighter, several years as fire chief for HWY 321 VFD and his degree as an engineer will help him as he steps into this new dual role as fire marshal and OEM coordinator.

He sees the role of OEM coordinator as a bridge between the state and county judge during a disaster so that first responder agencies are communicating and coordinating their efforts, and to work with disaster relief agencies like the American Red Cross for disaster assistance.

Overloading Hergemueller with new responsibilities was a concern for commissioners during discussions at the workshop. Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur said afterward, “I think he’s going to have his hands full. My only concern initially was him being able to handle so much, but I am convinced right now it’s a good decision for the County.”

Hergemueller will not be without support. Assistant Fire Marshal Nat Holcomb will handle some of the day-to-day tasks of the fire marshal’s office while Hergemueller gets familiar with the OEM coordinator job and looks for an assistant OEM coordinator. One aspect that Hergemueller intends to improve on is communication between the OEM and the public and first responders. County Judge Jay Knight said communication issues with the various first responder agencies was brought to light during Hurricane Harvey.

“It worked great for two days and then it all disintegrated. Bill already has a lot of communication with the fire departments, so he should get enough support there to make it work,” Knight said. “Our goal has always been teamwork, and the more we get totally in line across the county, the better off we all will be.”

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