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Westmoreland County fills public safety director post

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

It took just 24 hours for Westmoreland County Commissioners to hire a public safety director.

Commissioners on Friday hired Roland “Bud” Mertz to head the $51 million department that oversees emergency management and response, as well as 911 dispatching services.

Mertz, a former Greensburg firefighter, worked 25 years as a communications officer for the state police. After a five-year stint with the state's Department of Homeland Security, Mertz, 55, served in several high-level administrative roles with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency before retiring last month.

“We were not going to let this languish,” said Commissioner Charles Anderson. “It's just a great choice. We're fortunate we got him.”

Mertz was a candidate for the public safety job in early 2012, when commissioners hired retired military officer Michael Brooker for the position.

Brooker resigned in November, having served less than two years on the job.

His replacement, Brian Jones, who was a deputy under Brooker, was hired in April after a brief national search.

Jones resigned on Thursday after just two months for what he called “personal reasons.”

Jones will remain on the job until the end of next week, and Mertz will officially begin his tenure on Monday.

Commissioners said Mertz will earn an annual salary of about $75,000. Jones was paid $76,000 a year.

“His credentials are impeccable. He's local. He's availabl, and he's eminently qualified,” said Commissioner Ted Kopas. “He certainly deserved every consideration two years ago.”

Commissioners met with Mertz early Friday and immediately offered him the job. No other candidates were interviewed.

“It was a pretty easy decision. That was the person we thought should be there based on his background,” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney.

Mertz, who lived in Harrisburg for the past 11 years, retired last month to return home to Greensburg.

He said he will bring his experience in working for the state's emergency management agency during recent weather-related crises to his job in Westmoreland County.

“We want to make sure we are mission capable. I will jump right in and identify who our customers are. Public safety is all about the community,” Mertz said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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