Rusty Welsh was a 911 dispatcher and a Martinez Fire Department volunteer before taking a job as deputy director of the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency.
Photo by Jim BlaylockRusty Welsh has listened to emergency-services scanners since he was 12.
His father serviced radio communications equipment for agencies like the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, so he listened a lot. Then he had to listen to the radio as a volunteer for the Martinez Fire Department and as a 911 dispatcher for Columbia County for more than three years.
"For me to get into a vehicle that does not already have a radio, to turn it off or not turn it on when I get into the vehicle is really hard," Welsh said. "It is not normal. I am not used to it."
The 26-year-old Columbia County native does get to carry a radio to his new county position as deputy director of Emergency Services under director Pam Tucker. He was chosen from 30 other applicants for two main reasons - his understanding of communications technology, at which Tucker admits she is not an expert, and his personality complement to outgoing Tucker.
"He is a very quiet type of person, but very much a thinker type," Tucker said. "He learns fast. Here, you have to hit the ground running and he did."
The position has been open since the end of July. In the interim, Tucker received assistance from citizen and county volunteers from all departments, she said. The six people on the narrowed list of applicants all were so qualified, it took Tucker an extra week to decide.
The fast pace of the EMA office is a stress-step down from dispatch, Welsh said. He calls it a serial position - one thing at a time - as opposed to dispatch where you had to answer phones, listen to four radio channels, talk to people and keep a calm, clear head all at the same time.
"I do not get excited too easily," Welsh said. "I had enough of that with the sheriff's office. Working in 911 does that to you, I guess. But I like the work here, I like being busy. I do not like just sitting around an office or doing nothing. I like to have my hands into something."
Welsh admits he is still getting used to the quiet office and freedom the position has.
The deputy director position does whatever needs to be done or whatever the director assigns or needs help with. Welsh has lots of projects going already. He is working on a federally-mandated statewide hazard mitigation plan, a waste isolation plant project and on organizing transport exercises Oct. 24.
Welsh currently is attending Georgia Military College working on his core classes until, with the help of his adviser, he decides which major is best for his career path. That path includes a long stay in the EMA office, he said.
"We are thrilled to have him," Tucker said. "With the overload of work, he is making us all very happy with the help he is providing. I am looking for good things long-term from him."
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