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County will transition to new EMO director

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers – Former Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman Marcia Tuohey was among the well-wishers today who congratulated Paul Wagner on his retirement as the county’s emergency management director. Wagner retires on Friday after 14 years in the job. He was appointed to the position by Tuohey.

HOLLEY – Paul Wagner was unflappable in a high-pressure job, a person who welcomed suggestions – and criticism – with a goal of keeping residents safe and getting firefighters the resources they need for their jobs.

“Paul has always been around and available,” said Doug Jones Sr., the past fire chief at Kendall. “He can handle stressful situations.”

Wagner, a former Clarendon fire chief, will retire on Friday after 14 years as Orleans County’s emergency management director. He stayed on the job until a new $7.1 million digital radio system was installed. The new system continues to work out some “bugs” but county officials say the system is a vast improvement over the previous one that was implemented in 1992.

Jones was one of many leaders from fire departments throughout the county that attended a retirement party for Wagner at Hickory Ridge Country Club in Holley.

“One of the things I appreciated about Paul is we could have a disagreement and he said it was OK to disagree,” Jones said. “He didn’t hold a grudge.”

Dale Banker, a past Albion fire chief, will succeed Wagner. Banker starts at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. Banker has worked 36 years for the state Department of Transportation. He has been the DOT’s equipment coordinator and a supervisor out of the Albion office. He will go on leave from the DOT and officially retire from the state in November.

Banker said he will push to recruit more firefighters because fire departments need more active members.

“We’re at an all-time low for volunteers,” Banker said.

Banker would also like to see upgraded and expanded classroom facilities for firefighters at the Emergency Management Office on Countyhouse Road in Albion. He would also like to establish a shooting range for firearms training.

Wagner isn’t fully retiring. He will stay on as a part-time consultant until the end of the year.