By Seth Dukes
April 3, 1974: a date that will forever be ingrained in the minds of Meade Countians due to the devastating tornado that swept through the county. That was also the day that Emergency Management Director Ron Dodson would begin his journey toward becoming a resource for Meade County to always be prepared. Dodson was a week short of being 14 years old when the tornado hit. Three years later, he and his family were involved in the initial startup of the fire department at Payneville. Within a few years, he was an instructor with the state teaching fire training. Later, he was an emergency medical technician, and he worked as a part-time dispatcher in the mid 80s. In 1989 when Ed Taylor decided to move on and resign from the position of emergency management director, which was then called disaster and emergency services, Dodson’s name came up. “I’ve been there ever since,” said Dodson. Dodson says that he tells people he is similar to a stage manager in a play. “The stage manager of a play is responsible to make sure that everything is in place to make sure that things are in such a case that things can be done as they’re supposed to be,” said Dodson. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dodson’s typical day would consist of doing things on a yearly cycle and making sure disaster exercises were ran on a variety of different situations. He also helps update the disaster plan yearly, as well as complying with other mandates from the state and federal level. However, since the pandemic began, all of that has been put on the back burner. “We were told, when this first started, to forget all that stuff,” said Dodson. “We’ll do that once this is over with. Everything you’re doing right now is focused on the coronavirus.” Dodson says he participates in many conference calls and webinars weekly to try to stay ahead of the virus and have a concrete plan. With lots of sleepless nights and stressful situations, Dodson says that protecting Meade Countians keeps him motivated. “A lot of our people, whether they realize it or not, do depend on what I do and what the other first responders in this county do to keep them safe and ready for whatever comes up,” said Dodson. He also created a valuable resource for Meade Countians: Ron’s Emergency Management Facebook page. On this page, he posts everything from weather alerts to general information about preparedness. During the pandemic, he has provided a wealth of information to the community about safe practices, and he also devotes a lot of the page to dispelling rumors that are brought to his attention. Dodson is certainly devoted. When the ice storm occurred, Dodson says he went more than 137 hours with no sleep. “You can’t go to sleep,” said Dodson. “If you’re the only one there, you can’t because you’re going to get woke up very shortly, and then you’ll have to get your wits about you.” Dodson has only been totally “out of play” as he puts it for a few hours since he took the position. When he had his leg amputated, he was out of commission from 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. As soon as he was able, he was back at it. “I actually worked through my time in the hospital up to and after the surgery,” said Dodson. Tomorrow is a special day for Dodson. He will turn 60 years old. He says he’s going to try to hold out for the rest of Judge/Executive Gerry Lynn’s term, and then pass the torch to someone else. He’s thankful for all the relationships he has been able to build over the years. “I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of wonderful people to work with, not only in Meade County, but also contacts at the state and federal level,” said Dodson. From all of us here at the Meade County Messenger, happy birthday, Ron! We are very appreciative of all that you do for Meade County.