By Blake Spurney
Harvey County Now Staff
Harvey County’s new emergency management director, Mike Anderson, certainly has witnessed his share of weather-related disasters.
During a 30-year stint in the U.S. Coast Guard, Anderson oversaw Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas, in 2017. He said the operation involved more than 150 aircraft, which conducted more than 680 sorties (flights) and saved more than 1,700 lives.
A month later, he landed in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The storm killed nearly 3,000 people on the island and caused the worst electrical blackout in U.S. history.
“It’s good to be a first responder to understand what’s happening in the field, so when you get into this position, you know how to support those local incident commanders,” he said.
A native of Roanoke, Va., Anderson met his future wife, Molly Nebel, while she was on spring break in Puerto Rico in the 1990s. Family ties to Hesston are what led him to monitor job postings in Harvey County, and he saw the opening for the director’s position upon the retirement of Gary Denny.
“We have had a desire to come back to Harvey County specifically, so we’re grateful to be here,” he said. “It becomes home even though you visited. You get an attachment very quickly.”
Anderson said his job carried two responsibilities. One is to support local incident commanders, and the other is to ensure that the county is ready to respond to any real or potential threat. A potential threat arose late last week when high winds put the county in extremely high to catastrophic danger for range fires.
Before coming to Harvey County, Anderson worked for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management as a deputy state training officer and program and incident manager. He said his wife was still in Virginia overseeing the sale of their house.
Anderson joined the Coast Guard right out of high school. He earned his undergraduate degree from Trident University International and a master’s degree from the National Graduate School. During his career in the Coast Guard, he served two tours lasting eight years—one in Puerto Rico and one tour in Michigan. He said he conducted rescue operations on an orange helicopter like those seen on the television series “Baywatch” over the Great Lakes. During his earlier tours, he served as a navigator on a C-130 during long-range search-and-rescue missions over the Caribbean Sea. Those missions also had a dual purpose of drug interdiction.
Anderson said he enjoyed fly-fishing and following Chelsea in the English Premier League. He and Molly will be celebrating their 28th anniversary in May. They have two children, Tess, who is a fourth-generation graduate of Hesston College, and Luke, who is a student at the University of Maine.