By Shelley Grieshop
WAPAKONETA -- Surrounded by state-of-the-art electronics, Troy Anderson talks endlessly about weather statistics and mitigation plans while taking a seat in his new chair as director of the Auglaize County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency in Wapakoneta.
Anderson, 39, took over the lead role at the local agency in December following the retirement of his mentor, Dennis Mallory.
"Dennis and I have been friends since 1992 when he first took this job. We ended up taking classes together, and I got to know him pretty well," Anderson says. "What a great guy."
It was Mallory who asked him to fill the position after Anderson "shadowed" him for nearly three years.
Anderson lives in St. Marys with his wife, Jodi, and children Jon, 18, Alex, 15, and Cierra, 11. He graduated from St. Marys Memorial High School in 1984 and Wright State University-Lake Campus in 1988 with an associate's degree in robotics. He spent 16 years at AAP in St. Marys working as the company's robotics technician. In 1990, as a firefighter for the St. Marys Township Fire Department of which he is still a member, he started taking classes on the handling of hazardous materials.
"I was seeing more and more chemical spills occurring in industries and more and more trucks heading down our highways carrying hazardous loads," he says, explaining his concern.
He received top-level certification as a hazardous material technician, and in 2000 Auglaize County officials appointed him the hazardous materials coordinator for a 35-member haz mat team. He stepped down from the position recently to take the emergency management director's position.
He also has taken numerous other classes dealing with Homeland Security issues and disaster preparation.
"It's all basically about being aware of the potential weaknesses that surround us," he says.
As director, he frequently supervises mock disasters and annually updates plans for just about every disaster scenario possible. With a push of a button, he can activate warning sirens in every community in Auglaize County.
He admits protecting an area with a population of about 47,000 people is a big responsibility.
"If we ever have a real disaster here, it will probably be weather-related," he says.
Every year the Auglaize and St. Marys rivers flood and that leaves the county ripe for significant problems when rainfall becomes excessive as it was in 2003.
He believes the radios, radar and computers that surround him in his second floor office in the Auglaize County Administrative building, as well as other equipment stored in the basement and locations across the county, would be instrumental in saving the lives of area residents in a disaster.
"With this radio, I can talk to any agency in the state," he says of the $5,500 piece of equipment purchased with a state grant.
Tornadoes, terrorist attacks, lethal chemical spills and the disasters they create all fall under his jurisdiction. Fortunately, he has the support of area firefighters, law enforcement and other local, state and federal agencies ready to assist him at a moments notice, he says.
"Right now, my goal is to get out there and meet the public and let them know who I am," Anderson says. "Denny told me whoever takes this job has to have a passion for the people, and I think I do. I like that part of this job a lot."