Jacksonville native heads EMA in Calhoun County
by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star
Jan 21, 2014 | 1244 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jonathan Gaddy, 30, believes he’s found the perfect job and the perfect girl.

Gaddy and his wife, the former Laura Johnson of Birmingham, were married last year. Laura, a graduate of the University of Alabama, is a news writer for The Anniston Star.

Gaddy started out working as a volunteer for the Emergency Management Agency of Calhoun County and has served as director since fall 2011. Gaddy couldn’t be happier because he’s always liked being around people and helping them.

His job calls for him to coordinate the emergency program for the entire county. Though most associate that with weather sirens and tornadoes, Gaddy and his organization work closely with first responders such as the police, fire departments, emergency management personnel and what is referred to as stake holder agencies such as health departments, hospitals, Anniston Army Depot, schools, universities, utilities and public works departments.

Some programs call for him to work with churches and the community. One such program is called VOAD ̶ Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster.

“In working with all those agencies, we provide training courses on how to prepare and respond to a disaster or large emergency incident,” he said. “We assist them in developing plans and procedures on how they can work together on how to respond when something happens in the community and how to get the community back on its feet as quickly as possible.”

The EMA is a branch of the Calhoun County Commission, so county commissioners directly oversee everything the agency does. Gaddy said he’s happy to have the pleasure of working with county administrator Ken Joiner as well as the county commissioners and other elected officials in the county, including mayors. He said what makes the EMA successful is the fact that that all of these officials are pro-active and engaged and are supportive of public safety.

“That helps out a lot, and that’s what makes us successful,” he said. “I absolutely love what I do and a big part of it is getting to work with all these people.”

He said that emergency management is unique because he gets to interface directly with many in the community, including the Salvation Army, Red Cross, hospitals, health care organizations and local elected leaders.

“We get to see a lot of different faces and do a lot of networking in the community, and that’s what it’s all about -- making those connections in the community so that everyone is aware of what capabilities and resources are available and to help people work together so that nobody gets left out,” he said.

Overall, he said, the EMA’s role is more of a facilitator.

“We don’t control anything,” he said. “We’re there to support all those agencies whenever there’s a need for it in an emergency.”

Gaddy explains an analogy for his job.

“I tell people a lot of times that if we have a problem we need to call 911. They contact the police or whoever they need to contact. When those guys need assistance, they call the EMA. We’re kind of there as an emergency resource provider for local agencies and local government.”

Gaddy is a member of a medical team AL-1 (Alabama-1), which is a Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). It’s based out of Birmingham and includes doctors, nurses and paramedics who travel throughout the country wherever they’re needed to assist in a disaster.

Gaddy said there’s a large number of these teams in the country.

“It’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. “It’s allowed me to travel and teach classes all over the country.”

Most recently, he responded to Hurricane Sandy. He spent two weeks in New York City helping in the emergency shelter for people who were displaced. He’s also traveled to other states doing similar work.

“My role on the DMAT team is helping them with the communications and technology side of it,” he said. “I don’t actually do patient treatment. There’s a role for everybody in emergency management, and it’s a lot more diverse than many people think. It’s very rewarding when you’re a part of a big team of people helping people out.”

Gaddy said he’s currently enjoying being a newlywed. He and Laura spend a lot of time outside riding bikes, kayaking, exploring new places and taking a lot of short trips.

“Laura is the love of my life,” he said. “She’s been a blessing to me in many different ways. We like to visit new towns and meet people. We like to get out there and experience. I’m elated that she saw fit to say yes when I asked her to marry me.”

They attend Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

Gaddy is the son of Bobbie (Williamon) Gaddy and the late Hoyt Gaddy. His brother and sister-in-law, Craig and Tori Gaddy, have two children. Ashton is 17, and Cole is 13.

Gaddy is a graduate of Pleasant Valley High School and Jacksonville State University.

“Having had the opportunity that I’ve had at a young age, I’ve discovered that people in Calhoun County have a lot to be proud of,” he said. “No matter where I go I find people who are familiar with Calhoun County for one reason or another. Maybe they knew someone who attended school here or was stationed at Fort McClellan.”

Gaddy said he believes that everything happens for reason

“I didn’t really think I’d get in this career when I started college,” he said. “I’m very blessed.”

His first job with the EMA as a volunteer was with the Hazmat Team. Gaddy received a lot of encouragement from Fran Byrd, then commander of that team. He considers Byrd a mentor as well as Harold Rhodes who works with civil defense.

“The Lord always has a plan, and I’m very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had and all the people I’ve been able to work with,” said Gaddy. “We have a great team of people here at the office. All the people I work with are awesome. They make up a great network.”

Contact Margaret at pollya922@gmail.com.
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Jacksonville native heads EMA in Calhoun County by Margaret Anderson
Special to The Star

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