Robert “Bob” Hamlin attended his last meeting as director of the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management last Friday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Robert “Bob” Hamlin attended his last meeting as director of the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management last Friday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Retiring Jefferson County emergency management director attends last J-PREP meeting

PORT TOWNSEND — Robert “Bob” Hamlin attended his last meeting as the director of the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management and was met with a round of applause and gifts from county and city officials.

Hamlin, 75, attended the last meeting of 2016 of Port Townsend Regional Emergency Preparedness (J-PREP) which gathers representatives of East Jefferson County’s 140 neighborhoods to ensure the public is aware of the county’s emergency plans.

He has served as director of emergency management since 2003.

Hamlin said he is confident that his replacement, Lynn Sterbenz, was a good choice for the job.

“The program is in good hands,” he said. “She’s got the skill set to make it work, but it’ll be a lot of work. It’s a big job.”

Hamlin officially retires Saturday, Dec. 31. Sterbenz started work Dec. 5.

Hamlin built up Jefferson County’s Department of Emergency Management (DEM) by building community, according to city and county officials who spoke Friday.

“By building this department from the ground up, Bob demonstrated weaving together the threads of community,” said County Administrator Philip Morley. “Bob, without you none of this would’ve come together.”

When Hamlin began building the county’s Emergency Management Department, the operation worked out of an office no larger than a closet, according to a news release from the department’s former deputy manager and public information officer, Keppie Keplinger, who is also retiring this year.

Using grants from the Department of Homeland Security, Hamlin hired four part-time staff members. Through his work with such local organizations as Local 20/20, Hamlin also organized J-PREP.

Keplinger said Hamlin’s biggest contribution was the education of individuals in the county. Due to the remoteness of much of Jefferson County, it was important that people know what to do in case of an emergency, she said.

“We needed people to know they’d be on their own for awhile, but not for long,” said Port Townsend Mayor Deborah Stinson.

“We needed people to come together and when I look around this room, it makes me so proud that there’s all these neighborhoods here. Bob was a huge part in organizing all this.”

Hamlin also organized emergency response announcements which are broadcast from two local radio stations, and sent out over email, social media and text using the Nixle system.

He also worked with local groups — including people older than 65 and those with special needs — to ensure that the county’s emergency plans accounted for their specific needs in time of crisis.

“In my experience directly dealing with disaster, I know it takes community,” said City Manager David Timmons. “Bob has always taken that road.”

Hamlin came to Jefferson County with an array of emergency management experience throughout a 46-year career.

After serving in Vietnam with the U.S. Army, Hamlin was the Emergency Services Coordinator for Snohomish County from 1970 to 1981.

In 1981, Hamlin moved to Clallam County where he served as the director of Emergency Management for the county’s Sheriff Department.

All the while Hamlin also worked as the Academy Training Manager and Marine Patrol Supervisor and Commander of the Search and Rescue Unit, a job he held until 1994.

Hamlin said he is sad to leave, but also hinted he might still be a part of the emergency management community.

“You can’t be in this business as long as I have and just walk away,” Hamlin said.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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