Upshur County Clerk Carol Smith administers the oath of office to new Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Steve Wykoff. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Commission appoints new emergency management director, and he’s no stranger to first response field

BUCKHANNON – The main coordinator of Buckhannon’s Volunteers in Police Service has accepted a new role in the field of emergency preparation and response.

The Upshur County Commission on Thursday approved hiring Stephen Wykoff as a part-time director of the Upshur County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

The commissioners approved the hiring during their March 17 meeting.

“We are very pleased with the quality of applicants we’ve received for this position,” county administrator Carrie Wallace said. “We all felt very confident in the fact that Mr. Wykoff will serve the county well, so we’re happy to have him joining our team.”

Wykoff, who serves as the coordinator of the VIPS, the Buckhannon Police Department’s all-volunteer wing, said he applied for the position to assist the community in preparing for the next emergency.

“I’ve been interested in emergency services and emergency management for the past 30 years, and it just seemed a very natural next step,” Wykoff said. “It’s a great way to help the community and ensure that the community is ready to respond and react to situations outright.”

His first goal is to raise awareness about the DHSEM office because he feels not enough people know what it does and how it functions.

“I do want to improve the image of the office overall,” Wykoff said. “From a public standpoint, I don’t think a lot of the public knows we exist, nor do they know exactly what the Office of Emergency Management does.”

Wykoff also wants to revive the county’s Community Emergency Response Team.

“Additionally, there was a program that was in Upshur County years ago, called Community Emergency Response Team and we still have active members within the educational system, but we have very few active public members right now,” he said, “so we’d like to revitalize that program as well and get that back on track.”

The program helps teach the public how to handle emergencies, such as snowstorms, tornadoes or another derecho storm.

“I will still be the VIPS coordinator, so I’ll be doing a little bit of double duty depending on which hat I’m wearing,” Wykoff said. “There will be a couple of [changes]. As we get into the larger events, I won’t be able to take a frontline role with the VIPS. For example, during the Strawberry Festival that will be coming up, I’ll have to be up in the emergency operations center during that, but I will still have contact with the VIPS program and I have strong leaders, as well as my system coordinators and task supervisors who can take care of tasks on the frontlines.”

During Thursday’s meeting, commissioners also approved a request from Wykoff expressing interest in serving on the Enhanced Emergency Telephone Advisory Board.

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