Baptism by Fire: Nim Kidd

5 07 2010

This is reprint from Mike Ward item printed in Weather Watch, Austin-American Statesman on June 30, 2010:

Talk about arrival by crisis. 

Or, in W. Nim Kidd’s case, hurricane-force winds and deluging rains. 

Kidd, 41, takes over officially tomorrow as the new chief of the state’s Division of Emergency Management, the agency that oversees Texas’ official response to hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other such disasters.

He started work on Monday, as what was then Tropical Storm Alex began menacing the Texas coastline. By this afternoon, three days into his tenure, the storm had grown into a hurricane — though its path had shifted to the south enough to miss a direct hit on Texas.

“I’m used to it,” Kidd said yesterday during a press briefing about Alex at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s headquarters in Austin. “I was emergency management director in San Antonio … It goes with the job.”

In the past, according to Kidd’s resume, his job has included being sent as a first-responder to New York when the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists in 2001 and to the Texas A&M bonfire collapse in College Station in November 1999 that killed 12 and injured 27.

In times of crisis, Kidd will be the front man for the state’s response, the guy who will be applauded if if preparation and relief efforts go well — and guy who’s blamed if they do not.

In recent years, as Hurricanes Rita, Ike and Dolly have blasted Texas, the emergency management chief has also protected the flank of Gov. Rick Perry, the state’s top elected official who oversees DPS and will fade heat if disaster planning fails — especially critical as Perry seeks re-election this fall.

For Kidd, the new job seems a perfect fit — even if he has big shoes to fill.

Kidd replaces Jack Colley, a straight-talking, barrel-chested former military commander who was the state’s well-known and well-liked emergency chief for 12 years. Colley, 62, died of a heart attack in early May.

Kidd had been a San Antonio firefighter since April 1993, had been the Alamo City’s emergency management coordinator and a district fire chief since August 2004. He has also served as San Antonio’s homeland security director.

Before he became a firefighter, Kidd worked as a facilities maintenance manager for H-E-B Stores and for himself and was an H-E-B construction foreman before that.

A graduate of Judson High School in Converse, San Antonio College, Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) in San Marcos, Kidd’s resume shows he is currently working on advanced degrees at Central Texas College and Texas A&M University in Commerce.

He has a long list of emergency-management certifications from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a variety of professional groups, for training in such things as mass fatality management, hazardous materials, terrorist bombings and incident command.

Several came from the state office he now heads.

His resume shows he responded to the World Trade Center terrorist attack in New York in September 2001, as a planning officer with Texas Task Force 1, a specially trained emergency team. He was also a squad officer with the task force when they responded to the Texas A&M bonfire collapse in November 1999.

Kidd has lists numerous citations and awards for his work, including a meritorious certificate from the San Antonio mayor and council.

“I knew Jack well … He was a friend of mine. I worked with him for many years,” Kidd said.

This afternoon, as Kidd directed the state’s ongoing emergency response to the fast-approaching Alex, the memory of his friend remained close.

Earlier this month, the Texas Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to rename the underground bunker at DPS’ headquarters on North Lamar Boulevard the Jack Colley State Operations Center.

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