There will be some big shoes to fill at the end of February when current Director of St. Clair County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Jeff Friedland retires. Friedland says he started in 1988 working for St. Clair County, working for almost one year. He then left the county taking a position with the State Police working under Governor Blanchard, but it wasn’t to be. He left that spot after about six weeks as, with the new administration and budget cuts, Friedland had the opportunity to come back to St. Clair County. Marianne Acciavatti chairperson at the time, offered him the position of Emergency Manager. Friedland says St. Clair County is a great place to work and he and his wife decided that working here would be better for their family as they raised young children.
After 9/11 the position was expanded to include Homeland Security and Friedland says that doubled the workload particularly with grant writing. St. Clair County has a history of a community approach to planning and after 9/11 Friedland stated, that his idea was “we are all in this together: whether you are business, clergy, citizens; it is not just responders. When you look at events today, the true first responders are actually the people on the streets”. He says it has been challenging, but it has been really great too, to see how the community has come together; “we have become a team, and that is what it is all about.”
When asked what accomplishment of which he is most proud, Friedland said, “it may sound cheesy, but I mean it, it is working for the residents of St. Clair County. Our residents, our businesses, everyone steps up.” He has tried to do his best and feels he has taken a lot of great people, put them together, have come up with great ideas, and the residents have benefited.
An event that stands out most in his mind is the Parahawks plane accident in Marine City in which ten people lost their lives. Over the years, St. Clair County has experienced flooding, several Presidential declarations from weather, several spills in the river, the Hoover Chemical fire, and a tire fire at the site of a toxic dump where Friedland saw colors in flames that he never saw in the past or since, along with tornadoes and severe weather. That is what he loved about the job, that no two days are the same.
What is he going to miss the most? The people and helping provide safety for the residents. He mentioned the annual breakfast that began 23 years ago and continues to grow to several hundred attendees. Special speakers at the event ranged from an incident and lessons, learned, weather disasters, to active shooter situations and how to make your communities more resilient.
What does the future hold? He says he wants to do something part time and shed some of the responsibility. He currently sits on four different federal councils and he has to be employed by a government agency to continue on. So that is a consideration if he wishes hold those seats. He says it is time for him and his wife to do more things at home and with his family. Jeff has two out of three children in the area with five grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 19. He has set the retirement date for the end of February.
WGRT sends out best wishes and thanks to Jeff Friedland for the great work he has done in St. Clair County over the years.