It was a passing of the torch that didn't involve an actual flame — which might be in keeping for a pair of seasoned firefighters-turned-emergency officials.
Longtime DeSoto County Director of Emergency Services Bobby Storey passed over the holy grail of emergency communication — his cell phone — to his longtime Chief Deputy Director Chris Olson.
"I'll need to get that back," said Storey with a chuckle. Storey officially retires on June 30.
On Monday, the Board of Supervisors made it official when they named Olson as the new Director of Emergency Services, Fire and EMA, and bid a fond farewell to Storey, the agency's longtime director.
Board of Supervisors President Mark Gardner lauded both men for the dedication to ensuring the safety and protecting the citizens of DeSoto County during a Monday afternoon press conference.
"Chief Bobby Storey started as a volunteer at age 15 in 1970," Gardner said, adding that Storey officially joined the ranks as a county paid professional in 1997.
All totaled, Storey has spent 48 years serving and protecting the people of DeSoto County. Storey will officially retire on June 30.
District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell paid tribute to Storey and praised Olson as well.
"Chief Bobby Storey has done a tremendous job," Caldwell said. "Public safety is our biggest concern. Chief Storey has left quite a legacy and developed a wonderful team."
For his part, Storey heaped praise on his chief deputy director. "I know Chris Olson is ready for the job. I've been grooming him for the last two years."
Among his biggest accomplishments, Storey cited pulling all the county's volunteer fire departments under one umbrella agency. He cited the devastating ice storm of 1994 as one natural disaster that stands out in his memory.
"I woke up to what I thought was gun shots," Storey, longtime chief of the Eudora Fire Department, said from a makeshift podium set up in the hallway of the third-floor corridor of the DeSoto County Administrative Building. "It dawned on me that it was the sound of trees popping and it was an ice storm," Storey said. "It affected the whole county. We made the fire department a safe haven. We rounded up just about every barbecue grill in DeSoto County and cooked food from outside the station and served everybody in the county. That's how we survived it. Looking out for each other."
Olson said DeSoto County still maintains that cooperative spirit and has the resources to meet any challenge. Olson also had kind words for his longtime chief.
"Bobby Storey has left big shoes to fill," Storey said. "While I can never fill those shoes, I will be following in his footprints." As Olson spoke, he was flanked by Josh Harper, Ben McMinn and Scott Sanko, three emergency officials also rising in the ranks.
Supervisors Michael Lee and Bill Russell also had warm words for Storey and his successor.
"He has a good head on his shoulders," Lee said. "I've known Bobby since I was little. He will keep his phone close."
"I've served with Bobby for 15 years," Russell said. "One of the things that has been amazing is that Bobby and his crew have regarded all the departments and saved the taxpayers millions of dollars."
Olson said he wants to continue the forward progress that DeSoto County has made in the way of emergency management and preparedness.
"The Board has just approved our comprehensive emergency plan," Olson said. "We have all the resources we need to serve and protect the people of this county."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.