It's a rarity to find this space used to praise those who occupy government posts I have spent nearly three decades — here and elsewhere — observing through a critical lens in pursuit of transparency and accountability on behalf of those they govern.
But with the Arkansas River at the Port of Muskogee flowing at levels that have exceeded the major flood stage threshold, this is an extraordinary time. Emergency managers who coordinated the efforts of the emergency operations center through a unified command structure involving multiple layers of government and numerous agencies performed extraordinarily well.
As a criminal justice and local government reporter, I have worked with a number of these people who took part in the emergency response efforts. I participated in some mock-disaster exercises a few years ago and sat in on a debriefing session later — I got a glimpse of their pre-exercise expectations and post-exercise assessment.
During the past couple of weeks, while I have had the chance to observe their efforts directly for any extended period of time, it is apparent professionals are in charge of local disaster response efforts. That fact became clearer each day as they met and dealt with the challenges presented by the near-record flooding mounted proportionately with rising water levels of the Arkansas River.
Dealing with a flood of the magnitude experienced during the past couple of weeks occurs only on rare occasions. It is fortunate for Muskogee County residents have professionals who have what it takes to step up and accept the challenges presented when disaster strikes.
Hard work and preparation undoubtedly paid off.
D.E. Smoot covers city/county government for the Phoenix.