Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday announced the retirement of Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) Director Jim Bassham effective April 7.
Mr. Bassham led TEMA through the response to hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav; devastating tornadoes that ripped through Tennessee in 2006 and 2008; the Nashville floods in 2010; tornadoes through the Southeastern part of the state in 2011; and the flooding of the Mississippi River in West Tennessee in May 2011.
“Tennessee is grateful to Jim for his service through some of our state’s toughest times dealing with severe weather,” Governor Haslam said. “Under Jim’s leadership, TEMA has become a national model for emergency management.”
The TEMA director is charged with the responsibility for ensuring that state and local governments are prepared to deal with disasters and emergencies that affect Tennesseans. In addition, the director has the responsibility to help prepare citizens to deal with emergencies and the aftermath.
Before taking the helm at TEMA in July 2003, Mr. Bassham served as the assistant adjutant general-air for the Tennessee National Guard from 1995 until 2002.
“Jim Bassham took TEMA to a new level in emergency preparedness and has worked tirelessly to improve services provided to the citizens of Tennessee,” Maj. Gen. Max Haston, the adjutant general and commissioner of the Military Department, said. “He established the standards by which others are measured."
Governor Haslam also announced that Department of Safety and Homeland Security Assistant Commissioner David Purkey would serve as the interim TEMA director through June 30. A permanent director will be named at a later date.
Mr. Purkey will continue serving as assistant commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security during his time as interim TEMA director. Before serving as assistant commissioner, Mr. Purkey served as director of the Emergency Management Agency for Hamblen County and as a Tennessee state trooper, an agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and mayor of Hamblen County.
“David brings a wealth of experience to his new task and understands the importance of cooperation between state and local governments,” Governor Haslam said.
“David has done an excellent job of retooling and changing the focus of homeland security efforts in order to have a greater impact on our state’s safety. He is a top notch manager,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said.