From the Desk of your VEMA President... 

Its crazy to think that it’s already September and we start that change into a new season on the calendar.  It’s the time of year when baseball starts its post-season, and football literally “kicks” off.  Pool parties, days at the beach, time outside soaking up the sun, enjoying all that summer offers… now will get replaced by the harsh routine of going back to school and dealing with homework and projects, weekends watching football, the beauty of nature as the leaves change color, endless hours at kids sporting events, and a sliver of daylight being lost day by day…  

So, what did you accomplish this summer??  Did you get a chance to get out of town; Work on a project that has been on your “To-Do List” for months; Visit with family or friends that you haven’t seen in a while; Check off a bucket list item??  When you look back at this summer, do you feel like you made the most of it?  When I think about summer, I think more along the lines of personal goals than I do of professional goals.  I’ve always looked at summer as the time to recharge and be a bit selfish – you work so hard all year long, in a profession that is relentless and unforgiving, so part of the year you need to have an opportunity to focus on you.  Our work will always be there, its never ending, and as Emergency Managers, that’s why we are drawn to do what we do – the challenge is always there to overcome and mitigate a constant barrage of tasks, assignments, and projects.  I always want to accomplish more each summer – both personally and professionally, and for me this one turned out pretty well in both regards.  

I coached my son on 2 Baseball All-Star Teams.  One in Chesapeake, VA and one in Currituck, NC.  We spent a great deal of time at the beach in OBX and took a trip to visit my wife’s family in New Hampshire.  Each year we make the trip to NH (missed it last year… bet you cant guess why!) and every year my wife wants to climb Mount Monadnock (click the name to learn more about it).  The mountain is one of the most hiked mountains each year.  It is the most prominent mountain peak in southern NH, and is roughly 60 miles northwest of Boston and 20 minutes from the town where Julie grew up.  The summit is approximately 3,100 ft up and has several trails to the top.  So one glorious 80 degree day we (wife and kids) decide it’s the perfect opportunity to climb the mountain.  It was myself, my wife Julie, our daughter Avery (12), and our son Logan (10).   With us was my brother-in-law, his wife, and their two boys ages 6 and 8. 

It was a 2 ½ hour hike up (then 2 ½ hours down) a zig zaggy path full of roots, rocks, puddles, stumps, and boulders.  As we walked up to the trail head, I really didn’t have any preconceived notions as to what to expect.  And I’m glad I didn’t, because it really was like nothing I could have imagined… oh, by the way, it was the first time this boy from Chesapeake ever climbed a mountain!  But once we got to the top and could take in the beauty that was all around us, it truly was remarkable.  Once thing I did do, I constantly was looking and thinking about my “exit plan”.  How are we going to get back down?  What should I remember as we make the trek back down the mountain?  These thoughts were always circling in my mind.  That’s the Emergency Manager in me – the “Planner” mentality… its what we all have trained ourselves to do being in this profession.   

Sometimes life is better when you don’t have preconceived notions or thoughts.  Sometimes its better not to have expectations.  Sometimes its just fun to let things roll.  But no matter what, our EM mentality will always safe guard us.  It’s just an inherent trait we all have.   

So what’s your “mountain” going to be this fall?? Is it a special project; Are you thinking about increasing your education; changing positions in EM; getting more involved in your community; maybe even tackling a personal or professional goal that you didn’t get to this summer??  Whatever YOUR mountain will be – do not hold back!  Go for it!  Just like the fact that its now September, a couple months from now we be talking about getting fat from Halloween candy and swapping Thanksgiving recipes.  Start your climb up that mountain now… Time waits for no one!   

I was able to attend the National Homeland Security Conference in Las Vegas at the end of August.  I attended alongside a member of the Fire Marshal’s Office, and 5 members of our Police Department.  I know the saying goes “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas” but I can tell you that the presentations and speakers were excellent.  We came away with some great information and it totally recharges your work batteries.  Attending a conference like that really gets you fired up and helps fuel that drive to get back in the office and make things happen… it’s the same feeling I had after VEMS 2021!  Looking ahead to next year, consider using VEMS 2022 as an opportunity to bring your Policy Makers & Decision Makers together and attend a conference together.  

Lastly, I want to take an opportunity to reflect on the 20th Anniversary of September 11th.  This National Day of Remembrance is that reminder that our work in Emergency Management is not done in vain.  It’s a reminder of all those that lost their lives on that tragic day, and the unselfish acts of heroism by Public Safety personnel and citizens that answered the call to save others.  Those individuals climbed a mountain and never made it back down.  Family, friends, strangers, and every person alive on that day still climb an emotional mountain every year as we reflect on what makes America remember who we are after an unfathomable day.  We pray for those that lost their lives on that day, and those that we have lost since responding to the call to help.  We’ll continue to climb mountains in their honor.  

As always, if you ever need anything from me, I’m just a phone call away.  Thank you and Cheers to reaching the top of your personal or emergency management mountain.  

“Climb The Mountain… So You Can See the World, Not so the World Can See You”
- David McCullouga Jr.