Monday, May 17, 2010

Jack Colley Defined Emergency Preparedness

Texas lost a good friend this past Sunday when Division of Emergency Management Director Jack Colley passed away. Jack, or as the thousands who listened in to daily calls during times of crisis knew him, Chief Colley, was a no-nonsense leader when it came to ensuring Texans were protected and needs were met in times of crisis. I never heard him say it, but you could tell he loved what he did, and he did it very well, bringing a level of certainty and calm into the realm of unknown and insecurity that is Emergency Management. He made you glad you were on the same team, even in the onslaught of looming destruction.

My first encounter with Chief Colley was during the Columbia Shuttle disaster recovery efforts when he helped guide East Texas through an unprecedented mobilization as the world's eyes watched. His leadership helped define our mission as Texas partnered with NASA and brought dignity to the recovery of our brave astronauts. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Dolly and Ike will not soon be forgotten and neither will the Herculean efforts made to preposition assets in order to avoid catastrophe and guide our citizens to safety.

Agriculture got to know Chief Colley personally and in a unique way in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, when the storm resulted in the largest cattle drive ever. About 30,000 head of cattle were displaced and were rounded up, literally dead or alive. It was an essential task to reopen the highways and remove carcasses that could have contaminated water sources and become a public health crisis. We needed help and Chief Colley jumped into the saddle.

Chairing the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee was a daunting task, but Chief Colley made my role easier. We had one of our public hearings in the "bubble" - the emergency control center where the operations are carried out during a crisis. Chief Colley and his team made good hosts and welcomed all Texans to take pride in this state-of-the-art command center where our state's best gather to ensure 25 million Texans can continue with their lives.

Chief Colley usually ended his state emergency conference calls with a simple signature: "Colley out."

This Sunday he signed off for good. Chief, thanks for carrying such a load for the rest of us.

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