Clatsop County has added a second full-time employee to its emergency management office. Vincent Aarts was hired as emergency management coordinator after spending four years at a similar post in Columbia County. He replaces Tom Manning and Bijan Fayyaz, who both worked part time.
Aarts has spent his first couple of months studying the county’s emergency operation plan and what role he would play should the emergency operations center ever be activated.
“There’s been a lot of learning,” Aarts said. “Although I only came from over the hill in Columbia County, the hazard profile in Clatsop County is much different.”
For instance, 5 inches of rain in one day in his former county constitutes a disaster. The same cannot be said in Clatsop County, where that precipitation level simply means a dicey morning winter commute.
Aarts, 45, was born in Illinois but moved to Indonesia when he was 8 years old. His father, a native of the Netherlands along with his mother, worked for an engineering firm that serviced a booming oil industry in the country during the 1980s.
He returned to the U.S. to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the 1990s and became a wildland firefighter. The 10 years of bodily wear and tear eventually compelled him to pursue a career path that was related, but easier on the knees.
“I was looking for something broader,” he said. “I really enjoyed the work of responding to emergencies.”
Taking the advice of a friend, Aarts went back to school in 2010 to earn a master of public administration degree in emergency management from Portland State University. In three years there, he made connections with fellow students that eventually led to the Columbia County job.
“Those Columbia County commissioners have been shaking their finger in my face saying, ‘You poached one of our really good guys,’” Clatsop County Commissioner Lianne Thompson told Aarts at a recent commissioners meeting.
Now, Aarts, his wife, two toddler sons and one infant daughter live near Astoria — a place the couple has often frequented on weekends for its history and maritime atmosphere.
“We love it out here,” Aarts said. “There’s something about the feeling of the community, the friendliness.”
At work, Aarts will take a number of projects off the plate of his supervisor, County Emergency Manager Tiffany Brown. But they will still keep tabs on what each other is doing in order to ensure leadership stability should one of them become incapacitated in an emergency.
“We try to build redundancy into the program so we don’t have a lack of leadership in an incident,” Aarts said.
He appears to be set for a long career of doing just that.
“We’re looking forward to the day when our kids go to high school and become Fighting Fishermen,” he said. “We feel very much like we have come home.”