Nueces County's emergency management coordinator will be retiring at the end of the year after seven years in that position.
Hired in 1999 as an outside contractor assigned to write code for county software, Bill Roberts became a full-time county employee in 2000. Before that, he spent 10 years with the Corpus Christi Police Dept. before leaving in 1980.
After just two years as a full-time county employee, Roberts said he was asked by newly-elected County Judge Terry Shamsie in 2002 to be the county's emergency management coordinator. After accepting the position, and attending a few classes, Roberts delved right into the responsibilities of making sure the county's emergency management plan was up to date.
"Our emergency management plan had lapsed," he said.
Despite the classes he had attended, Roberts found the best experience came from getting his hands dirty with some of the more difficult challenges that arose, such as the severe flooding that occurred in 2007 along County Road 73 in Calallen.
"Your plan is never really complete. There's always going to be some adjusting," he said. "(The classes) kind of bring you up to speed. But all the collateral duties of the (emergency management coordinator), you know, those are the ones that you just have to get in, roll your sleeves up and start doing."
The collateral duties include applying for U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants and coordinating recovery efforts with the state and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"You do what you can for the residents and help them get their lives back to normal," Roberts said.
Having served as the county's emergency management coordinator in a post-Sept. 11, 2001 environment, Roberts said Homeland Security is constantly updating its policies for local governments, making the need for an updated emergency management plan critical for entities looking to obtain federal funding.
"A lot of federal funding is available to the state and there are a lot of entities competing for that funding," he said.
Under Roberts' tenure, the county has updated its emergency management plan and made the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds in Robstown the central location for coordinating emergency operations during a natural or other disaster. The Nueces County Courthouse is also set to receive new security cameras and recording devices throughout the building and parking lots, as well.
County Judge Loyd Neal, who was elected in 2006, said Monday that Roberts has been an integral part of making sure the county is prepared for any emergency.
"I hate to see Bill leave, to be honest with you," Neal said. "I wish him the very best and I hope that he's successful in everything he does. He's really helped us improve our overall readiness in the county, because when I first got here, we were not there."
In addition to bringing the county's emergency management plan into the 21st Century, Neal said Roberts has earned respect from officials throughout the county and state along the way.
"He has improved our reputation with the state on (the county) being better prepared," he said. "Bill has been a very big part of that."
As for whether he will miss the chaos of emergency management, Roberts replied quickly that indeed he would.
"Oh yeah. I'm going to miss this as much as I missed the police work when I separated from the police department," he said. "The emergency management coordinator community is really, even though we're spread far apart, a pretty tight-knit community."
Roberts said he will shift his focus to a non-profit organization he started called Coastal Guardians Outreach, which is dedicated to public education and outreach for hazardous weather and flooding.
The organization also has a Web site, www.coastalguardiansoutreach.org, which anyone can visit to download free information on hurricanes and natural disasters.
County officials will begin the process of looking for a new emergency management coordinator in the early part of next year.