BONNERS FERRY — Mike Meier failed retirement three times — three times because he has always felt a calling to help where he can.
“I seem to have this nagging emotion that I can fix that, or I can help that,” Meier said.
And he has helped this community — in many ways.
More than 10 years ago, Meier and his wife moved here from Seattle and he noticed that every time there was an incident or situation, the rumors began to spread. Two or three years after living here, he found himself presented with the opportunity to change the rumor mill.
After speaking at the Idaho Emergency Managers Association Conference in Boise, he was approached by Dave Kramer and Bob Graham, who asked if he would take on the role of Boundary County Public Information Officer (PIO).
“The job pay was little, or nothing, but I opted to do it for free,” Meier said. “When I took the PIO job, I wanted to give everyone in the county one place where they could get the facts, no politics, just facts.”
Meier explained that the Boundary County Emergency Management, PIO Facebook page was born out of the need for correct information during the Parker Ridge Wildfire.
“It has become the one source from the county for the facts on everything,” Meier said. “Everything is also sent out to all the media sites.”
The PIO position was a success and about three years ago, Meier was asked to apply to be the Boundary County Emergency Manager. He accepted the challenge.
“Two and one half years ago as the Director of Emergency Management and Public Information, we became the voice and management for Emergencies and Incidents,” Meier said.
Tackling both rolls put Meier in the heart of the action, and he worked closely with all facets of the community, from first responders, to media, to the general public. It also allowed him to bring in a longtime passion of his, ham radio, and utilize the Boundary County Amateur Radio Club for communications when other systems failed in emergency situations.
“I’m a longtime ametuer radio operator and I have seen what it can do.” Meier said. “I have been trying to bring them into the picture slowly.”
The success of that pairing became obvious on May 7, when there was a countywide phone and internet outage, which included the 9-1-1 systems. The radio operators were able to step in and keep emergency communications flowing.
Meier has contributed greatly to the safety of the community in many ways, including extensive training classes and exercises.
“The exercise schedule and classes available has allowed members of all agencies to expand the way we do things,” Meier said. “You cannot do enough good training, and learn enough, it is a never ending program.”
Meier said that his favorite success story is the Communication Committee that started two years ago. The committee was made up of members from each agency, with the goal of identifying problems within the communications plan and change it.
“It was apparent that each agency within the county did not necessarily have the ability to talk with other agencies via radio communications,” Meier said. “The group was amazingly effective and has made great strides towards fixing the communication issues in the county.”
With all of the advancements and changes that Meier has made, along with keeping the public and media informed, it was not a surprise that Meier’s retirement party, held at the old Armory building on May 29, representatives from multiple agencies throughout the county, showed up to wish him well.
The choice to retire — again — was made by Meier when he realized that his hearing was failing to a point that it could potentially affect his job in a negative way.
“Unfortunately due to my hearing loss, I have become a liability rather than an asset because I might make a mistake on info I got off the radio or telephone which could affect the lives of someone,” Meier said. “That I cannot do, so it is time for someone who hears well to keep the programs going and continue to be an asset to the community.”
When asked what his favorite thing about being the PIO and director of Emergency Management, Meier responded quickly, “the people.”
“I think Boundary County has the best scene of people that there is. We are all friends,” he said. “It gives us that opportunity to do things that would be much more difficult without that. Everybody here is just great; all good people, really good people — the first responders, volunteers, all of them. They really go out of the way to do a good job.”
Meier said that the positions he held was his way of giving back to the community that he loves.
“I always felt, and still do feel, that what I do helps keep the people and property within Boundary County safe,” he said.
As Meier changes lanes in his life, he now looks forward to catching up on maintenance around his home, doing some traveling with his wife, and spending time on their boat in Lake Pend Oreille. He also hopes that the things he started in the two positions, will continue on.
“I hope that whoever the county hires continues on what we have going. We are going to have these big classes come up here — education for first responders and all agencies — open to the public if they want,” Meier said. “I want to see those keep going.”
The turnout at his retirement party, and the care that went into laying it out, was evidence of the impact Meier has had on the people he worked with.
“It has been a pleasure working with Mike in his role as Emergency Manager,” said Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer, who attended the party. “He has also been exceptional as the PIO for keeping our community informed. And I can’t thank him enough for being the MC at our Penguin Plunge events — something that I hope he will continue.”