Communication key says new DeWitt emergency management coordinator

  • OTHER HATS

  • In addition to being DeWitt County emergency management coordinator, Rosie Ybarra is also the flood plain administrator and the safety coordinator. She can be reached at 361-275-0878.

CUERO - Communication is the key to success in her new job, said Rosie Ybarra, DeWitt County's emergency management coordinator.

Ybarra, 41, joined the county in December. She replaces David Dodge, who retired after taking the position in 2011.

"My goal is to open the line of communications and build trust between the county and the cities in the county. Our community is all of DeWitt County," said Ybarra.

To help accomplish that goal, a local emergency planning committee is being formed.

"This group will allow communities and its leadership - both public and private - come together to find solutions to shared concerns."

DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler said Ybarra is a perfect fit for the county.

"She has a recent background in emergency management and homeland security that was deemed appropriate for our present needs," he said.

Ranging reporter Sonny Long visited with Ybarra in her office in the basement of the DeWitt County Law Enforcement Center.

The county's emergency operations center is also housed there.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I'm from San Antonio. I grew up there with my parents and grandmother.

Q: Tell me a little about your work background.

A: It was mainly in sales. I was a licensed real estate agent and worked in financial services sales and corporate sales.

Q: How did you get interested in the emergency management field?

A: When everything happened with real estate in 1997 - the bust - I took it as a sign. I did some research and became fascinated by the emergency management field. I wanted to become part of the solution. I wanted to help.

Q: How did you get into the field?

A: Once my children got older - I have a son in the Army and a daughter at Baylor - I went back to school and enrolled in the emergency management program at San Antonio College.

Q: Other than school, how else did you learn about emergency management?

A: While at college, I became the government liaison for the San Antonio Emergency Operations Center. I attended EOC meetings and listened and learned. I volunteered with the Red Cross and became a member of the action team.

Q: And after that?

A: Making those contacts led me to a job as a private contractor with the Texas Division of Emergency Management. I was part of a team that wrote continuity of operations plans for the Texas Department of Public Safety. I learned a lot from that team.

Q: Don't you have some background in dealing with hazardous waste?

A: I do. While with TDEM, I was asked to become program manager for the waste isolation pilot program. Basically, we monitored radiological waste as it moved through Texas to the federal waste isolation plant in New Mexico. I learned a lot about hazardous materials.

Q: And hazmat is an area that has grown as far as emergency management is concerned, especially with the increase in this area of oil and gas exploration, right?

A: Yes, it's huge here. We're not going to get away from preparing for hurricanes and floods. That will also be part of emergency management, but it will be balanced with preparing for those other risks that maybe we didn't have five or 10 years ago. It's a balance. It's a matter of knowing your risks and mitigating them through education and training.

Q: I know you've been busy visiting the towns in DeWitt County and meeting with officials there. Why are you doing that?

A: I want to know what their concerns are, what their needs are and how I can help. I work for them, and I want to get to know them.

Q: What are you learning from these visits?

A: A lot. We need better communication. That's No. 1, and that's across the board. The other thing is training. It's overwhelming to me all the changes that have taken place due to the oil and gas exploration activity. I can only imagine how the community feels.

Q: What attracted you to this position?

A: I wanted to be an emergency management coordinator. I want to be part of the solution for a community. I want to teach what I have learned to the community.