The San Benito County Office of Emergency Services said goodbye to Manager Kevin O’Neill on Sept. 20. O’Neill left the county for a job as assistant to the city manager in Woodinville, Washington. EMS Coordinator Kris Mangano, a five-year county employee with close to 20 years in emergency services, was named interim manager.
O’Neill, 33, began working with San Benito County in May 2014. He told BenitoLink that emergency management was “the next natural step” after his time as a first responder.
“I was drawn to emergency management because it would give me an opportunity to have a larger impact on disaster preparedness and response in a community,” said O’Neill, who was at the helm when winter storms caused flooding around Lovers Lane in 2017.
“It was a case study in community resiliency and compassion,” he said. “Everyone wanted to help those impacted by the flooding and those who were impacted showed a tremendous amount of strength and fortitude. I was in awe.”
O’Neill said the department will face challenges if politics get in the way of preparedness and response activities.
“The best time to invest in disaster preparedness is now, before a major event. Thankfully, I believe San Benito County has strong leaders in place who understand this and will continue making progress.”
He added that it’s easy to look toward the government for help during a disaster, “but what will help more than anything is being prepared today, in your own home. People should visit ready.gov to learn how they can be better prepared.”
Said Supervisor Jim Gillio: “Kevin worked cooperatively with many agencies in our region, updated our procedures and championed our CERT team. This is a critical position for our community, and we are hoping for an applicant that can fill this position and build relationships and cooperation with all our stakeholders.”
O’Neill said he was sad to leave, and that working for the county was one of the greatest honors of his life.
“There was not a single person I worked with that didn’t care deeply for this county or the community,” he said. “There are so many people and experiences I learned from that will have an impact on my life and my career for years to come and I am grateful for that.”