Former department chief returns to head Volusia County emergency management

by: Kevin Captain

Volusia County Community Information Director

Jim Judge will return to a familiar role in Volusia County government.

Judge, the face of Volusia County emergency management for seven and a half years, resigned in January 2021. His retirement, however, was short-lived, as Judge was rehired in November 2021 to serve as an assistant. director of public protection. And now he will return to his position as Chief Emergency Management Officer. Helene Wetherington, Director of Emergency Management, resigned from her position effective April 14.

“During my tenure, I have made significant improvements to your organization that I hope can continue to thrive in the years to come,” Wetherington told County Executive George Recktenwald in his resignation letter. “I appreciate the opportunities for growth and professional development you have provided me during my tenure.”

Wetherington described a number of accomplishments since arriving on board in May 2021, including developing a five-year strategic plan for emergency management, conducting a public awareness campaign to raise awareness of areas of evacuation, improving the emergency management mobile application and awarding a grant to develop a rescue citizen information center for use during emergency activations. Under Wetherington’s tenure, emergency management also began the process of transitioning to an enhanced public alert notification system.

“We thank Helene for her service and contributions to the organization and wish her well,” Recktenwald said. “At the same time, we are very fortunate to have Jim back on the team and wanting to return to his old role in emergency management. It remains to be seen whether this will be a permanent or temporary assignment, but the important thing is that it allows for a smooth transition for everyone involved.

Judge has more than 48 years of public protective service and helped guide Volusia County to its first-ever full accreditation by the National Emergency Management Accreditation Program. He served as Executive Director of Lake-Sumter EMS and then Lake County EMS before being hired as Volusia County Emergency Management Director in June 2013. Judge also worked as a firefighter-paramedic and lieutenant at the Del- Trail Fire District in Palm. Beach County, was the Chief of EMS for Indian River County, Operations Supervisor for Indian River Memorial Hospital in Vero Beach, and EMS Director for Quality Ambulance Service in Boca Raton.

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