Search on for new emergency manager

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Just as wildfire season heats up, Elbert County will lose its emergency manager to the Colorado Office of Emergency Management.

Cory Stark, the tall, soft-spoken “master of disaster” who helped forge multi-jurisdictional partnerships and scrape together grant money for critical upgrades to the county’s emergency dispatch system, will begin his new position June 24 as the state’s new North Central Regional Field Manager.

“This really is a dream job for me,” Stark said from his office in Kiowa. “I first heard about the position back in 2009, but of course, it wasn’t open then. So when it was re-advertised at the beginning of the year, I applied and said, ‘If this job really is for me, then the doors will open.’”

And open they did.

“We are very excited to have Cory in our office as well as our division,” said Colorado Director of Emergency Management Dave Hard. “Cory has demonstrated excellence in building relationships, teams and good systems out in Elbert County and we look forward to him applying those skills here in the North Central Region.”

In his new role, Stark will assist 10 counties, including Elbert, helping local governments and community agencies improve emergency management plans and programs.

Stark’s position has been advertised on the county website, offering an annual salary of up to $55,000. Applications for the position will be accepted until 5 p.m. on July 1.

Elbert County District 2 Commissioner Kurt Schlegel said the county will not appoint an interim emergency manager to serve until the position can be permanently filled.

“We simply don’t have the staff to do that,” said Schlegel from his home. “And Cory has agreed, and made arrangements with the state, to step in should something big happen between now and then. As our regional rep, he’d probably be out here anyway.”

By statute, if an interim emergency manager is not appointed, responsibility for coordination of emergency resources within unincorporated areas of the county falls back on the Board of County Commissioners, according to Fran Santagata, community preparedness manager for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Stark, who will still reside in Elbert County, said he will be providing some assistance to the county until his position is filled.

“It’s really hard to leave,” said an emotional Stark. “I’m just crazy for all the emergency responders out here in the county, but mostly I am so very grateful for the many opportunities I’ve been presented out here, and the incredible amount of trust that’s been placed in my hands.”

Stark has served as the Elbert County emergency manager since 2009.

“We are certainly sorry to see Cory leave,” Schlegel said. “He has made great strides here in Elbert County and will do a great job for the state — definitely our loss and their gain.”

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