Hawkins EMA director resigning as of Sept. 30

Jeff Bobo • Sep 21, 2019 at 2:30 PM

ROGERSVILLE — For a dozen years, it has been Gary Murrell's job to make sure all Hawkins County first responders were operating “on the same page.”

Earlier this week, however, Murrell, 59, announced that he is stepping down as EMA director effective Sept. 30.

It's not a retirement, Murrell said, although he may take a bit of a break while considering options.

“I turn 60 in November, and retirement looks real good right now,” Murrell said. “I'm going to take a break. There may be new things coming down the pike for me. Don't know for sure yet, but I'm not going home and sitting.”

Mayor Jim Lee told the Times News earlier this week he expected to be interviewing candidates for Murrell's replacement at the end of this past week and next week.

Murrell was uniquely qualified for the EMA position, having worked in every type of first responder position.

At the beginning of his career, Murrell was a medic, supervisor and director at Hawkins County EMS.

In the mid-1990s, he became a reserve Hawkins County sheriff's deputy. From there, he became a Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office jailer, attended the police academy, became a HCSO road deputy, and for seven years served a narcotics detective.

Murrell was also a longtime volunteer firefighter and past chief of the Striggersville VFD.

In 2007, Murrell was named Hawkins County's first full time EMA director.

Before Murrell took over, it was a part-time position held by Tony Armstrong, and prior to that it was a volunteer position held by E.B. Noe and Civil Defense Director Don Cinnamon.

A lot of the communication between local agencies, TEMA and FEMA flows through Murrell, and he coordinated active disaster scenes.

Just of few of his accomplishments over the past 12 years include:

* Improving emergency radio communications, which have proven to be a constant challenge due to Hawkins County's mountainous terrain and aging equipment.

* Developing a countywide emergency plan.

* Helping acquire Homeland Security grant funding to address communications, fire department, rescue squad and hazardous material needs.

* Acquiring equipment to create an EMA mobile command center.

* Helping schools, large businesses and governmental agencies develop their own individual emergency plans.

* Helping develop active shooter plans for schools and public facilities and coordinating multiple countywide disaster and active shooter drills.

He is also a hands on EMA director, responding personally to most house fires, serious crashes, floods, forest fires and damaging storms.

Murrell also became the countywide safety spokesperson, keeping the public informed about issues such as dangerous weather, emergency shelters and the availability of property damage assistance.

“I tried to build on the accomplishments of my predecessors, and keep the office moving forward to address the challenges that our public safety agencies face,” Murrell said. “It's a large undertaking, but when the 'stuff' hits the fan, everybody has to work together. That's what we've been doing, and we want to keep going in that direction.”