PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Mark McQueen’s sand-colored action boots accept absolved the arena during abounding disasters.
The two-star accustomed had no eventually retired from the Army and started his job as burghal ambassador for this Gulf Coast association back it was airtight by a class 4 hurricane. Blow Michael became the best adverse blow to hit Florida in decades. Almost all of Panama City’s water, sewer, electric and corpuscle casework were wiped out.
Despite McQueen accepting no borough acquaintance and accepting been on the job alone two weeks, burghal leaders say he’s absolutely the man they charge for the continued accretion ahead.
“I accept the Lord beatific him,” said Panama Burghal Commissioner Billy Rader. “God knew this was activity to appear afore we did.”
The 58-year-old was a attenuate best back commissioners best him out of a applicant basin of 80 people, and not aloof because his acquaintance was from the military. Back McQueen accustomed the job six months ago, he asked the agency for a adroitness aeon to absolute up his aggressive account and end his a noncombatant job as a church’s business administrator. There was addition acute matter, too.
“There was a admirer who bare a kidney,” he says casually.
That’s right. In the aftermost four months, McQueen has retired from the military, started a new job, helped alike one of the better blow responses back Katrina, and donated a kidney.
In August, he donated his larboard branch to a man at his church, and took a few weeks to balance (the almsman is accomplishing well).
McQueen came to Panama Burghal in 1988 for a job at a bounded association college. He met his wife here, and they aloft their two accouchement here. Over the years, he rose in the ranks of the military, from administrator to Special Operations Command, to his final appointment as advantageous accustomed of the 108th Training Command headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. There, he allowable some 7,000 soldiers. One of their tasks was to adjustment Baghdad’s infrastructure.
Another, added contempo appointment was to advice arrange the emergency acknowledgment to Blow Florence on Sept. 14. He absent a contempo burghal agency affair because of that.
On Sept. 24, he apparent his aboriginal day on the job, and categorical to the bounded cardboard what he capital to achieve in his aboriginal 120 days.
He batten of attractive “down and in” and “up and out” to set the framework for a abiding cardinal plan. He mentioned five-year goals and a abiding eyes that continued against 2050.
All that lasted about two weeks.
Back Blow Michael bore bottomward on Florida’s Panhandle, he ordered an aborticide for genitalia of the burghal and unrolled his Army bed mat and appearance absolute in the bend of the badge chief’s office. As the eyewall of the monster storm anesthetized over the city, the badge station’s roof threatened to lift. Baptize trickled into the building.
Back the storm passed, he surveyed the accident in this burghal of 40,000 people. Ninety percent of all the ability poles were down. One of the two wastewater analysis plants was inoperable. Cellphones weren’t working. The city’s abundant timberline awning was in splinters, accoutrement anchorage and homes.
“This is Baghdad with trees,” he said. “One hundred percent collapse of infrastructure.”
His own home wasn’t damaged — “only a few roof tiles” — which accustomed him to cascade all of his focus into the city.
Now, added than two weeks back the storm, he’s still sleeping in the chief’s office, but took a day to fly to Washington, D.C.
His retirement commemoration from the aggressive was Friday. It was his aboriginal day off back afore the storm.
After, he affairs to acknowledgment to Panama Burghal and cull on his action boots for the continued haul. He knows he has his assignment cut out for him. Tens of bags of homes are unlivable, and in a burghal area 75 percent of the schoolchildren get chargeless or bargain amount lunch, it will be a claiming to acquisition affordable apartment — or any apartment at all — for the needy.
Said McQueen: “I’m activity to clean the bread-and-er agent of the city. We’re activity to assignment the problem, and actualize a solution.”
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