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Jerry Vehaun is joining exclusive company. Governor Roy Cooper bestowed him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest honor granted by North Carolina for those exemplifying extraordinary service. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for Buncombe County’s outgoing Emergency Services Director.
Meantime, the Board of Commissioners presented Jerry with a plaque honoring his 47 years of service. “Jerry has been a steady and reassuring presence during some of Western North Carolina’s legendary weather events such as the Blizzard of 93 and Tropical Storms Francis and Ivan,” exclaimed Chairman Brownie Newman. “These are times everyone is told to stay home while people like Jerry and his crew show up at work to make sure there is a calm and competent person directing the traffic that ensures emergency operations are able to keep us as safe as possible.”
After receiving his awards, Jerry gave a brief speech. “This has certainly been a surprise and something that I will treasure forever. I want to thank this Board and the people of Buncombe County,” he said. “Buncombe County has been a really, really good place to work all these years. I’ve seen a lot of bad things, and I’ve seen a lot of good things. If I can ever do anything for any of you, pick up the phone and call me. I’ve been on call most of my life, so it’s not going to matter,” he said to thunderous laughter and then a standing ovation.
Jerry’s last day is Tuesday, Dec. 31. Buncombe County is so proud and grateful for your 47 years of dedicated service.
You can read Chairman Newman’s entire speech below:
It’s not often we have the privilege of saying goodbye to someone with Jerry’s tenure and aggregate experience. To say he has guided Buncombe County through some difficult times during his 47 years would be an understatement. Jerry has been a steady and reassuring presence during some of Western North Carolina’s legendary weather events such as the Blizzard of 93 and Tropical Storms Francis and Ivan. These are times everyone is told to stay home while people like Jerry and his crew show up at work to make sure there is a calm and competent person directing the traffic that ensures emergency operations are able to keep us as safe as possible.
Jerry has also looked beyond our region to help humanity at-large. As a member of the federal Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team and the North Carolina State Emergency Response Team, Jerry experienced the immediate aftermath of events like 9/11 and Hurricanes Katrina and Floyd. While most of us where watching from afar, trying to process the destruction and death of such cataclysmic events, he was there helping in whatever capacity was needed. Truly, the mark of a great human being is someone who looks to see what they can offer in times they could easily retreat into their own worries, concerns, or needs.
Jerry’s time as Buncombe County’s Emergency Services Director almost eclipsed half a century. That’s a significant amount of time to dedicate to public service, let alone in a position that puts you in the eye of the storm and keeps you away from your loved ones as you tend to the needs of the community. The selfless nature and unwavering dedication Jerry has shown transcends our admiration and sets a new bar for leadership.
There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude this Board and the community at-large have for you. Buncombe County would like to present this plaque as a symbol of our respect and gratitude for a career dedicated to helping those in times of great need. We can’t imagine what our County would be without you. We wish you well in retirement and your next adventures.