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Woman to Chair Putnam County Fire Service Board

Meghan Evelyn Hutchinson was recently named to the Putnam County Fire Board, making her the first woman to serve as chairman. In this position, she will be responsible for leading board meetings, overseeing expenditures, and helping foster a relationship between the community and the fire board.

Hutchinson has been involved in emergency management since 2006, when she joined Teays Valley Fire Department. She says she wanted to serve her community and become part of something larger than herself. Since she was under the age of eighteen, she was a junior firefighter. Though she was not allowed inside of burning structures due to her age, she received training in the operation of the fire trucks and was part of the team responding to accidents. After enrolling in Concord University, she joined the Athens Volunteer Fire Department, where she became a full-fledged firefighter at the age of eighteen. Later she returned to Putnam County, although she was unable to resume firefighting because of several skiing injuries.

While studying anthropology classes in Putnam County through Marshall University, Hutchinson met Dr. Ron Enders. He became her mentor and encouraged her to join the River Run Regional Medical Reserve Corp, of which he was the director. She and Dr. Enders created the Radiological Response Unit, which addresses sheltering and the evacuation of citizens in the case of a radiological related accident. Now she is the Deputy Director and leads Radiological Response Unit #960.

While West Virginia does not have any nuclear power plants, there are four counties in the Northern panhandle that are within the fifty-mile planning zone for Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania. There is also always a chance of accidents involving radiological components, such as with medical equipment being carried on trains or trucks on the interstate.

In 2013, Hutchinson pursued a second Bachelors’ degree from Eastern Kentucky University, where she majored in Homeland Security. She later returned to the university in 2019, and recently completed her Master of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management with certifications in Emergency Management & Disaster Resilience and Corporate Security Operations.

Over the years, Hutchinson has been involved with emergency management for various governmental offices. She worked for the West Virginia Center for Threat Preparedness, where she was responsible for ensuring coordination among all involved federal, state, and local agencies and entities. She was also the Radiological Emergency Preparedness State Agency Coordinator for the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (WVDHSEM), where she focused on planning, training, and exercises relating to the Beaver Valley Power Station Nuclear Power Plant. In 2019, she was recognized by Governor Jim Justice for her efforts in response to Hurricane Florence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she served as the Logistics Chief for West Virginia’s DHHR’s Health Command. Last December, she received her West Virginia Emergency Manager Level 3 accreditation from the West Virginia Emergency Management Council. This September, she will complete the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, housed at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, Radiological Emergency Preparedness Executive Education Program. She is the only woman in this highly competitive program in this cohort.

“As time progressed, I had the urge to get more involved in our community again here in Putnam County,” said Hutchinson. After speaking with several county officials, she applied for an opening on the fire board as the District 2 citizen representative. The County Commission appointed her to the position last year.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Meghan and the rest of our Putnam County Fire Service Board this year to help maintain and improve the Putnam County Fire Service,” the Putnam County Fire Service Board wrote on their Facebook page in an announcement concerning Hutchinson’s promotion.

Hutchinson takes pride in becoming the first woman named as the Putnam County Fire Service Board chairman. She says she wants young girls and women to see that there are no boundaries and that they can achieve anything. “Having a young daughter myself, I think it is really important for young girls and women to know that anything is achievable, and that there are no limits to what you can be a part of,” says Hutchinson.

“The heartbeat of Putnam County lies within the residents of each community who volunteer to make their communities better,” Hutchinson says. “The men and women of the eight fire departments across Putnam County exemplify this heartbeat through their sense of selfless service to their communities The most devoted and loving hearts of any community belong to those who heed the calling to public safety and to the fire service. Through tireless and selfless sacrifice for their fellow man, they become beacons of hope, safety, and protection for their local neighborhoods as well as for our entire county, state, and nation. The men and women who proudly answer the call day in and day out across the eight fire departments throughout Putnam County, who willingly forgo their own personal safety and needs to serve the needs of others, exemplify the very best society has to offer and are foundational cornerstones of the American way of life. It is with tremendous pride that I have accepted the position as Chairman for the Putnam County Fire Board, the first female to hold that auspicious responsibility. I am humbled by the confidence and faith put in me by those who I am honored to call my fire family and will do all in my power to serve you as you serve our county… with dedication, honor, and love.”

Hutchinson was born in Slidell, Louisiana, to parents Al and Judy Howard. She says that her parents “have always instilled in her that nothing is impossible if you are goal driven and determined.” Hutchinson has been a resident of Putnam County since 1998 and lives in Scott Depot with her husband, Michael, daughter Catherine, and three rescue cats. When she is not involved in emergency management, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors, cheering on the Kentucky Wildcats, traveling, and relaxing with her family.

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