BATH TOWNSHIP — “It’s been fun.”
That is how an emotional Russ Decker began his address to a group of county law enforcement, civic officials and emergency response personnel Wednesday at a ceremony in his honor at the Bath Township Fire Department. Decker is set to leave his position as director of the Allen County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management on Friday to serve as the deputy director at the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
“Emergency management agencies provide support, and Russ has really done that,” Bath Township Fire Chief Joseph Kitchen said. “He’s served the county in many ways.”
All three county commissioners were on hand to present Decker with a declaration of appreciation. Commissioner Greg Sneary was quick to compliment Decker in the body of work he has accumulated in his 17 years as director.
“A lot of times when people leave, you’ll hear, ‘They’re leaving some big shoes to fill,’ but in this case, I truly believe that,” Sneary said.
The Allen County Fire Chiefs Association also presented Decker with a plaque, proclaiming him an honorary fire chief. Decker was moved by the gesture.
“It’s a very high honor and I know they’ve never done that before,” he said. “We have 13 fire departments in Allen County and each one is top notch.”
Shawnee Township Fire Chief Todd Truesdale has worked with Decker in creating response plans to dealing with emergencies involving hazardous materials, and he asserted that Decker is leaving Allen County a much safer place than when he started as director.
“Our team is a verified type 1 hazmat team, which means we can handle known, unknown and WMD incidents with all the equipment he’s helped spearhead,” he said. “If you go anywhere in the state of Ohio, I don’t think anyone is as well prepared because of their EMA directors as we are because of what Russ has done.”
For Decker, the job comes down to one simple principle.
“Any job in public safety is about helping your neighbor,” he said. “It doesn’t get much more basic than that. We have a great community here with a great network of public safety people who take that as their mission to help our neighbors.”