Mark Hall named new 911 director

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Alpena County dispatcher Pam Susan, left, spends a few moments with newly hired Alpena County 911 Director and Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Hall. He will replace Bert Francisco, who is retiring later this month.

ALPENA — The position of Alpena County 911 director and emergency management coordinator has been in flux since 2012.

During that time, four people have held the title and each has stepped down for one reason or another after a relatively short period of time.

On Monday, a fifth coordinator started his tenure.

After completing the interview process and passing a comprehensive background check, Mark Hall was hired and began to settle in to his new role.

Current 911 Director and Emergency Management Coordinator Bert Francisco, who is retiring, will work with Hall for the next couple weeks to help him get adjusted.

Hall is a former Alpena County commissioner and was captain for the Charter Township of Alpena Fire Department for more than a decade. He said that, when he learned of the job opening, he talked to his family about applying and decided he was at the point in his life to move from fighting fires to being more involved behind the scenes.

He said working with 911 while on the county Board of Commissioners and his long history in emergency medical services should be valuable while doing his job.

“This is just a natural fit for me,” Hall said. “As I’m working toward the last portion of my working career, this sort of takes me from the front lines being a firefighter to more of an administrative role and to be able to work behind the scenes on things that I think are important.”

Hall said he will still work for the fire department for a brief time to “wrap up some things,” but that won’t take away from his focus on his new duties.

Hall knows the county has struggled to find a long-term employee for 911.

Since Mike Szor retired in 2012, there has been a revolving door at the 911 dispatch center.

Mark Gurisco was department head from 2013-17 before resigning. He was replaced Roy Wekwert, who was an interim while the search for a permanent replacement was ongoing.

That replacement was Francisco, who was hired in January 2018. His last day is July 19.

Hall said that, before he applied for the position, he thought hard about the importance of longevity. He determined he was going to be in it for the long haul.

“I came to the decision that this position needs stability and maybe I’m somebody who is able to stay six to eight years,” he said. “I can’t guarantee that, because nobody knows what the future holds and what health issues could arise, but I am determined, like Bert was, to leave the department better than what it was when I took over, whatever my tenure ends up being.”

As a commissioner and firefighter, Hall has worked with many local boards and committees inside and outside Alpena County. He also worked with many different fire departments and emergency responders. Hall said he anticipates those relationships will be beneficial in his new role.

“I have had the privilege to work with most of the fire departments and many of the police departments and, as a state fire instructor, I have worked with many of the young people as they have come up,” Hall said. “They will all assist me in creating an environment of teamwork and help me to understanding their needs. I think that is a huge benefit.”

Francisco said he decided to retire to spend more time with his family. He said he enjoyed his time working for the county. He was not directly involved in selecting Hall, but, after seeing his resume and meeting him, he is confident Hall is the right man for the job.

“The advantage that he has that I didn’t have is his awareness of county government and their processes and his awareness of emergency services from being a fireman,” Francisco said. “I had to come in and build relationships. He has already built and established those relationships. That is going to help this transition be more seamless.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.