Governor names new leader of emergency management

Ex-public safety director in Frederick to head agency

December 12, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed yesterday a former Frederick County public safety director to lead the Maryland Emergency Management Agency, replacing an ousted holdover from the Glendening administration.

Ehrlich and other administration officials said the hiring of John W. Droneburg III, who led Frederick's emergency operations for 11 years, is part of a reorganization that will make MEMA a more responsive agency that is less centralized at its headquarters at Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown.

Droneburg, 51, replaces Donald L. Keldsen, who had led the agency during the winter's record snowstorm and Tropical Storm Isabel.

Dennis R. Schrader, director of homeland security, said he and Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, the Maryland National Guard adjutant general, asked Keldsen to step aside so they could install a director who would take a new approach to running the agency.

"There was a sense we needed a leadership change," Schrader said.

Keldsen was named MEMA's director a month after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. He had spent a year as acting director.

Although officials did not directly criticize Keldsen, they indicated that the agency's relationship with local emergency management officials needs improvement.

The choice of Droneburg, who led Frederick's emergency efforts from 1989 to 2000, was popular with local officials present for the State House announcement.

James D. Weed, Anne Arundel County's director of emergency management, said Droneburg was an excellent choice.

"He's quite capable. He's got the experience. He's got the energy," Weed said. A change, he added, was "long overdue."

Droneburg said a priority would be terrorism prevention.

Tuxill said that while the world has changed since Sept. 11, MEMA's organizational structure has not changed.

The general also hinted at dissatisfaction with Keldsen's performance during Isabel, saying that although MEMA's response was "fine," its activities "could have been done with a little less effort."

Keldsen was traveling outside the country yesterday and could not be reached for comment. Schrader said it was possible he would continue to work for the state.

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