Now that most of the debris has been hauled off from what used to be Greensburg, City and County leaders are looking for a few good men, and women.
More specifically, several people with administrative and disaster response experience are needed to oversee projects, facilitate the flow of paperwork and coordinate efforts between municipal and county concerns.
The county commission took a step in securing such help by visiting with former Hutchinson City Manager Joe Palacioz at their weekly meeting Tuesday morning in regard to him assuming the role of county recovery coordinator.
According to commissioner Gene West the position would likely “last the next six to nine months.”  West said it’s his hope the former Hutchinson administrator will decide to accept the post by the end of this week.
“He’d be hired by the county to work together with FEMA and state agencies and to keep things straight on building projects,” West said.  “He’d also have contact with the City to coordinate with what they’re doing.”
The City, meanwhile, is looking to hire several key personnel, all of whom would be answerable to City Administrator Steve Hewitt.  Hewitt said the City would first look to hire an assistant city administrator to assist him directly.
Greensburg will also seek a financial recovery specialist to coordinate monetary matters with FEMA and other related agencies, in addition to an assistant utilities director and another one to two clerical staff.
In addition, Hewitt said the City would need to staff a building department, requiring a building official to oversee the division, in addition to a city planner and two building inspectors.  The planner would be involved primarily with zoning matters and various development requirements.
While all these additional staff members would be paid with part of the $12 million grant recently approved for the county by the U.S. Department of Labor, the City will also look to hire an economic development director, whose salary will be covered by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Hewitt said he’s hoping the City positions can be filled “within two to three weeks.”
While he didn’t have any particular individuals in mind for the positions at the present time, Hewitt did say an effort would be made to “hire as many local people as possible” to fill the new slots.
Though he didn’t mention him by name Tuesday morning, West said Palacioz became an obvious choice for the County to recruit over the past couple of weeks.
“He was recommended by a number of people including Dennis McKinney,” West said.  “His name just kept coming up and he has a lot of experience in city government and with disasters as well.”
Palacioz, in fact, served as Hutchinson’s City Manager for nearly 35 years, leaving in March of 2005.  The most notable disaster with which he dealt during his tenure was the natural gas explosion in January of 2001 that destroyed two downtown Hutchinson businesses.  Another explosion the following day demolished a mobile home park three miles away.
Two residents died of injuries from the explosions, which forced the evacuation of hundreds of people as gas geysers began erupting in the area.
Kiowa County Emergency Preparedness Director, Ray Stegman, said he expects Palacioz to be invaluable in “coordinating between all our department heads and coordinating our efforts with the City.”
Stegman also said he was hopeful Palacioz would take the position.  “He’s a really sharp fellow,” Stegman said.  “We’d be lucky to get him.”