National Experts Telling County, “It’s Not Me, It’s You”

Posted in Commissioners Court, Had Enough Yet?, Williamson County at 1:47 pm by wcnews

This from today’s AusChron, WilCo Sends Another One Packing:

Another “national expert” has left William­son Co., after apparently running afoul of WilCo’s incestuous power structure. His departure comes nine months after the high-profile resignation of a nationally recruited director of the animal shelter. Gary Oldham, chief of the county’s Department of Emer­gen­cy Communications, left his post last month, citing, among other things, a lack of adequate support from county officials. Former Regional Animal Shelter Director Melanie Sobel had cited similar reasons when she left last year.

In 2006, the county recruited Oldham, a former police officer, dispatcher, and fireman, who rose up the international ranks of emergency communications over a 30-plus-year career to supervise the design and construction of an emergency operations complex, subsequently assigning him “several other full-time jobs,” according to Oldham’s March 24 resignation letter. Oldham gave 30 days’ notice, but the Commissioners Court rejected the notice, “making my resignation effective immediately.” Now, Oldham is taking stock of his achievements, which included the creation of a model dispatch academy. He says he’s still struggling to understand why WilCo froze “pesky ol’ me out of the picture.”


Oldham acknowledges bucking what he terms “seemingly deliberate delays” to his myriad solutions. For one, Sheriff James Wil­son indefinitely impounded his new operations manual, based on unsubstantiated theories that it would lead to “dead cops all over the place,” Oldham recalls. In another instance, the county effectively killed a plan to replace its circa-1970s “computer-aided dispatch” system with state-of-the-art gear because, as County Judge Dan Gattis told Oldham, people had complained of a lack of input, which Oldham denies.

However, Oldham believes the nail in his coffin may have been his expressed concerns about some questionable business-as-usual practices. For example, he said, he had told the WilCo brass that millions of dollars in grant funding could be in jeopardy if the Department of Homeland Security were to find out the county had not correctly instituted certain mandates.

Here’s the county’s announcement of his hiring from back in 2006.

After a national search, a group of county and city officials including Judge John C. Doerfler and Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman interviewed the top candidates for the position in early June. The group unanimously selected Mr. Oldham as the candidate to recommend for the court to hire.

He appeared to be well qualified. Here’s the county’s press release on his resignation, no national search this time.

The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved a reorganization of departments dealing with emergency services on Tuesday, March 25. John Sneed, formerly the director of Williamson County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Office of Emergency Management, was named the director of Emergency Services. Divisions under that department are EMS, HAZ-MAT, Mobile Outreach Team, Emergency Management, Dispatch/911 and Wireless Communications.

This, along with Ms. Sobel’s treatment, will surely make future candidates contacted by Williamson County elected officials conducting national job searches think twice.

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