SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Trent Atkins has resigned from his position as director of the department of emergency management and homeland security in Shiawassee County, which he held for more than two years.
Atkins, who worked as a part-time county employee, told The Argus-Press on his last official day, Friday, that he has accepted a full-time position in the private sector, with Signal Restoration Services in Troy.
Atkins will direct the new tactical division of the company, which restores property damage incurred as the result of a natural disaster, performing emergency and disaster planning.
“I’m not leaving because I didn’t like the job here,” Atkins said. “The police and firefighters in this county are just fantastic, very proactive and involved with anything we do. The community response after both tornadoes (in Vernon Township March 14 and New Lothrop Aug. 30) has been amazing.
“This is just a wonderful community,” he continued. “I’ve been very humbled to get this opportunity and I’m going to miss it.”
Atkins said he plans to continue to work “unofficially” for the county for a couple hours a week in order to work on grant applications currently in progress. He said he will also help with the transition after the county hires a new emergency manager.
County Coordinator Mike Herendeen said: “Trent has been an excellent emergency manager for the county during his tenure, and is highly regarded by the county commissioners as well as the local police agencies, fire departments, and other emergency responders with whom he works. He will be very hard to replace.”
Last January and again in June, the Shiawassee County Board of Commissioners discussed possibly moving Atkins from part-time to full-time. In June, they discussed increasing his salary from $50,000 to $68,287 per year.
Commissioners in support of the move praised Atkins’ strong performance as emergency director, including his work in the aftermath of the March 14 tornadoes, and noted many other Michigan counties had full-time emergency managers.
Other commissioners expressed concern about county finances and that the upgrade would amount to treating Atkins differently than other county employees.
The discussions never led to a final vote. The issue was tabled in January, and in June it was dropped without explanation prior to a final vote.
“Certainly, that was a factor in my decision, but I’m not bitter,” Atkins said “The commissioners are responsible for the finances of the county, and they made the decision they thought was best.”
Atkins’ job in Shiawassee County included evaluating security risks, coordinating resources and managing grants and funding. During his tenure, he obtained grants enabling the purchase of tactical helmets and bullet-proof vests for every law enforcement agency in the county.
Atkins also created and developed an accountability system for EMS and other first responders that tracked their location. He also found funding for and led the training of police officers across the county in how to respond to such local disasters as mass casualties.
One of the grants Atkins intends to complete before leaving is for purchasing helmets and vests for Shiawassee County firefighters, he said.
Atkins, who has lived in the county for 27 years, resides in the Morrice area and said he has no plan to move. He has two children attending college, and two younger children, ages 10 and 15. He said he believes taking the new position is in the best interests of his family.