Nelson sworn in as new EMA director


Morrow County’s new Emergency Management Director (EMA) Michael Nelson was sworn in at the April 1 Board of Commissioners meeting.

Nelson’s position in the county follows five years as EMA director at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia. Prior to that role, he was with Virginia’s Department of Emergency Management, following 20 years in the United States Navy.

Asked by the Sentinel why he came to Morrow County, Nelson said his children are in the area. He and his wife wanted to be close to the children and grandchildren as they grow up.

Nelson said he was teaching emergency management and traveling all around the country for Texas A&M in 2023. When he saw the opening for EMA director in Morrow County, he felt it would be a good fit and change of pace from traveling.

Nelson said the April 8 solar eclipse event was “a really good example of how emergency management operates. We plan and prepare with others who are impacted such as the hospital.”

“I appreciate the friendliness of everyone I’ve met in the county,” he added. “I look forward to serving the citizens of the county.”

Nelson’s EMA duties in the county will overlap with outgoing EMA Director John Harsch, who has been in the position since February 2016. He will officially begin his retirement on April 19.

Harsch said on April 1 that he was looking forward to seeing through the total eclipse event, which he has been preparing for the past two years.

Asked how the eclipse differs from other emergencies such as storms or chemical spills, Harsch said, “We could see it coming and prepare ahead.”

Plans were made by informing the public at meetings and preparing for additional traffic and having glasses to protect eyes. As schools and businesses were informed, many made the decision to close for the day. Harsch’s biggest concern for April 8 was the prediction of cloudy weather.

Looking back over his eight years as EMA director, Harsch said he has been lucky not to have really bad chemical spills in the county. He said having the third lane built on I-71 really helped in cutting down on diesel fuel spills with trucks.

Harsch and his wife, Kim, are looking forward to traveling and a river cruise this summer. After that, he’s been invited to “hang out” as a volunteer at the Mansfield Fire Museum with his friends from the Mansfield Fire Department where he worked for many years.

Alberta Stojkovic is a correspondent for The Morrow County Sentinel. She can be reached at [email protected].

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