Christopher Godley was named Sonoma County’s interim emergency manager Tuesday, stepping into the role vacated last month by another official who faced criticism over the county’s failure to send more widespread public alerts during the wildfires last year.
Godley brings to his new assignment several decades of related experience, having been San Jose’s emergency management director from 2010 to 2013 and before that serving as Marin County’s emergency services manager and the deputy emergency services coordinator in Sonoma County for many years. He also advised Santa Rosa officials in the October fires’ aftermath.
County officials said Godley would run the emergency services division for “several months” while they conduct a national search for someone to fill the job on a long-term basis.
Board of Supervisors chairman James Gore in a statement praised Godley’s “leadership and expertise,” which he said are “needed to begin setting the framework for community preparedness and resiliency.”
“As board chair, I look forward to working with him in the interim to start to rebuild confidence in our emergency services,” Gore said in the statement.
The previous emergency manager, Christopher Helgren, was reassigned in mid-February to a different job updating a plan that would help the county continue its day-to-day operations in the event of another major disaster. Helgren has said he chose in October 2016 not to send Amber Alert-style warning messages to cellphones during local disasters because he wasn’t confident they could be targeted to an area smaller than the whole county.
That decision was faulted in a recent review from the state Office of Emergency Services — released after Helgren was reassigned — that said county emergency staff failed to stay abreast of technological improvements in the Wireless Emergency Alert system.
As the new interim emergency manager, Godley’s priorities include leading the county’s efforts to “develop a comprehensive Community Warning Program” in partnership with other agencies and members of the public, the county statement said.
Godley will also study different staffing models for the emergency services division in advance of providing a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors, county officials said. The division is currently housed within the County Administrator’s Office, but supervisors are considering whether to move it elsewhere, perhaps to the Sheriff’s Office.