Tribal Government & News

Warden takes over at Emergency Operations

07.14.2016 Brent Merrill Tribal Employees, Public Safety

Steve Warden, the Tribe’s new Emergency Operations coordinator, readily acknowledges that he has a tough act to follow in replacing Jamie Baxter.

Baxter, whose last day with the Tribe was also the day after the huge Cascadia Rising event in Grand Ronde and all over the Pacific Northwest in early June, put the Tribe on the proverbial map for emergency services.

Warden said he looks at his new position as both a challenge and an opportunity.

“I honestly believe that we all have a calling,” said Warden. “My job, my calling, my desire is to be a peacekeeper. Not an enforcer, but a peacekeeper; somebody that is there in the interest of public safety. There are a lot of guys like me who genuinely care.”

Warden, who lives in Newberg with his 12-year-old daughter Aliyah, came to work in Grand Ronde as a replacement Tribal police officer a couple of months ago when there was a shortage of officers in the Tribal Police Department. Warden, with some prompting from Tribal Police Chief Jake McKnight, then found out Baxter would be leaving and saw an opportunity.

Warden, who retired in 2011 after 27 years with the Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office, has been involved with law enforcement and firefighting since he was in high school. He said he grew up with family members involved in law enforcement and firefighting and that he spent two years as a reserve officer before becoming a full-time officer.

“I know I was born to do this stuff,” said Warden. “That’s the bottom line answer is you can’t do this job and do it well unless you care about people.”

Despite retiring, Warden kept working for the department as a part-time deputy in Yamhill County. He also recently finished a stint as the battalion chief of the Newberg Fire Department and he has been on the state fire marshal’s incident management team for several years.

“I think he will be a great fit,” said Tribal General Manager Dave Fullerton. “He’s going to be a great asset. Obviously he has big shoes to fill, but he is connected to the community. I think it will be a good transition.”

Fullerton had high praise for Baxter and said that he is happy to have someone of Warden’s caliber step in and guide the program into the future.

“I think she (Baxter) did an amazing job,” said Fullerton. “She got the program off the ground. She was already networked and not only locally, she was networked nationally. She brought the Tribal emergency management team to the forefront with state emergency management and national emergency management.

“Now we have this person who is ready to go; ready to pick the ball up. He is ready to take on what Jamie has done and continue to move it forward. He’s going to be a great resource.”

McKnight agreed that Baxter did a great job as the Tribe’s first Emergency Operations coordinator. McKnight also said he has known Warden for many years and that he is confident in his ability to step in and do a great job.

“Jamie did an outstanding job of getting the emergency management plan and getting all the resources we need for an emergency,” said McKnight. “She pretty much started from ground zero and gave us exactly what we needed for any kind of emergency that the Tribe might have right now. We’re going to be the emergency hub for Polk County and that’s really important.

“Steve is a guy I could call on or talk to any time I needed any kind of assistance or help. I worked with Steve quite a bit.”

McKnight said anytime he needed something related to Yamhill County, Warden was quick to help. McKnight also said it takes a certain type of person to handle the results of a major disaster or emergency and remain calm and effective.

“Not everybody can do that type of work,” said McKnight. “He really likes how the Tribe works and how we are a big family and everyone is out to help each other. He is a good guy. He’s going to be good for the Tribe. He’s easy to talk to.”

Warden said his first couple of weeks on the job have been getting acclimated to his new position and conducting a physical inventory of all the safety program equipment and assets. He said he has been getting familiar with all the grant-related paperwork that goes with the program.

Maintaining a high level of preparedness in regard to weather-related issues is something that Warden sees as a practical use of his time and the program’s resources. He said in the future months the program will look to have everyone on the same page in regard to low frequency, but high-risk weather events.

“It’s something we need to make sure we are maintaining our preparedness levels on so we know where to go and who to talk to for certain resources,” said Warden. “I think particularly as our resident population grows out here, keeping up with those needs and making sure that the organization is able to prepare for those types of emergencies when they come down the pipe is huge.”

Warden said he likes working in the West Valley and always has.

“Honestly, this is like coming home for me,” said Warden, who worked out of a Yamhill County Sheriff’s Office substation in Sheridan for years. “A lot of the faces I’m seeing now are the people I talked with and visited with.”

Former Yamhill County Sheriff Jack Crabtree said he has worked with Warden since he began his career in law enforcement in 1985. Warden began his career with Yamhill County in 1984.

Crabtree, who retired after 12 years as sheriff in 2015 and now works part-time for the McMinnville School District as a safety manager, said he met Warden doing ride-a-longs when he was still a rookie working in the jail.

“I got to know his style and how he operated and how he dealt with the public,” Crabtree said. “A few years later I ended up going to patrol and I modeled some of how I dealt with people based on how I had seen him with people. I liked his style because he is a people person. He is competent at everything, but he is great at his people skills. I emulated a lot of his techniques because they worked.”

Crabtree said he remembered how much Warden liked being in and working in the West Valley area.

“That’s where he wanted to be from day one,” said Crabtree. “When he and I worked West Valley that was going to be a good day for him. He loves it out there and he always has. When I heard he was working for you guys I thought that’s so perfect because West Valley is home for him.”

Now that he is nearing the end of his working career, Warden said he wants to spend the next couple of years building the Tribe’s Emergency Operations program and mentoring his program assistant Brandy Bishop.

“Learning the subtleties of the job will keep me engaged and moving forward,” said Warden. “I’m going to be getting with Brandy and assessing the entire program; we will get some input from leadership and see then which direction to take it.

“We want to engage the different Tribal departments and community organizations so that they will want to stay involved with us. We’re going to try to figure out what is best for the community and we’re taking the foundation that has already been laid and we’re building the house around it.”