MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Over the past two years, people across Florida relied on a familiar face to guide the Florida Division of Emergency Management, but with the departure of Jared Moskowitz, a new director is leading the agency heading into hurricane season. His name is Kevin Guthrie and he recently spoke to CBS4’s Jim DeFede.

Kevin Guthrie: I have been here at the division for about three years. I have been in the public safety arena for about 32 years. I started off as a police officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville, Florida, went on to do emergency management for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and then on to a small rural county, Flagler County in northeast Florida. Then I went across the peninsula over to Pasco County, where I spent a couple about three years, and Pasco County got promoted up to the Assistant County Administrator of Public Safety for Pasco County before Governor Scott asked me to come up here and help out for the remaining three months of his administration. And then Governor DeSantis asked me to stay on in the transition team and then into permanent employment here with the division.  

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Jim DeFede: What do you like about this work?

Kevin Guthrie: Well, I mean, at the end of the day, it’s public safety, as I said, I’ve been doing this for 32 years. And, you know, a lot of people, you know, when they get into public safety, they say they want to do it because they want to help people. And, you know, I used to be a police academy instructor and I said, no, why do you really want to do it? But I will tell you it. The reason that I got into public safety was because I genuinely love to help people. My heart is service. I love to help individuals. I love to help, especially in this area. When a hurricane or disaster strikes, everybody’s on equal footing. You know, somebody that was not homeless is now homeless. And how can I help that individual? What can I do as a part of public service to help that individual get back on their feet, get back into their home, get back to the way that their life was before that disaster, before that disaster happened? I will tell you from a personal perspective, there is nothing better in the world than to be able to help a person who is really in need. And that’s why I got into the public safety work, because I want to help people that were need.

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Jim DeFede: As we head into this current hurricane season, what are some of the challenges that are unique this time around?

Kevin Guthrie: So, as we get into this next hurricane season, the challenges that we have, I think, are a couple. So, I’ll start with the first one. You know, we’re still going to be working in a little bit of a COVID environment. You know, we’ve got about give or take, about 50 percent of the population vaccinated. We were doing a really good job on the 65 plus, but they’re still going to be some type of COVID twist to sheltering. So, we are getting in place to set up non-congregate sheltering again. And we’ve got that approval from FEMA to do it. It will be for those individuals that are positive at the time or they have symptoms at the time. So those will be the individuals that go into non-congregate sheltering. So, we’ll have a little bit of twist there. We have plenty of PPE, plenty of masks, plenty of hand sanitizer, plenty of stuff for congregate sheltering as well to make sure that we have some protective measures in place for those that want to use those protective measures.

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And then I think the other thing that we have a challenge with Jim, and this is something I’m going to be kind of using as a platform in the future, is: How do we as emergency managers and public safety officials and even the media set an expectation with our viewers, with our constituents that they understand that we live in what I call an Amazon culture world now, where I can order something online and it ships tomorrow. When debris piles up on the side of your streets and your towns, that stuff does not go away overnight. That’s going to take days, weeks, sometimes months, depending on the category of storm. And how do we respond in the emergency management field, in the Amazon culture? That’s one of those things that we’ve got to certainly try to educate people on and be transparent with them and let them know exactly what we’re doing, exactly how long that’s going to take, and be up front with individuals and say, look, it may take a month to get this debris off the side of the road.  

Jim DeFede