Longtime EMA director Johnny Wingers to retire

Johnny Wingers, longtime director of the Macon-Bibb County Emergency Management Agency, announced his retirement Monday.

Wingers, who recently turned 70, said his last work day will be Aug. 9. He said he has enjoyed his job and will miss it, but he has been thinking about stepping down since the approach of his birthday — and the Atlantic hurricane season. He said he made his final decision while sitting in church Sunday.

“I took everything into consideration,” said Wingers, who has worked for the city 16 years. “The weather gets worse every year it seems like.”

He informed Mayor Robert Reichert of his decision by letter and in person Monday afternoon. Reichert, who said Wingers will be missed, called him “a great EMA director” who has been dedicated to guiding the city through floods, tornadoes and other potential disasters that have threatened it over the years.

The mayor said he asked Wingers to reconsider after receiving his resignation letter, but Wingers had already made up his mind.

“We all owe Johnny Wingers a tremendous debt of gratitude for all the late nights, early mornings and midnights he has put in,” he said. “I’m sorry that we’re losing him.”

The city will host a retirement ceremony for the departing director Aug. 10. Wingers said he hopes to find another job in public safety that will be less stressful.

In recent months, Wingers has had conflict with Macon’s chief administrative officer, Thomas Thomas. The CAO reprimanded Wingers in May and June. The first rebuke came for not properly planning for the swine flu pandemic. The second was issued when an EMA generator was used at the home of state Rep. David Lucas and City Councilwoman Elaine Lucas after their residence burned. But Wingers said his relationship with Thomas “had nothing to do” with his decision.

“One thing did not make me make my mind up at all,” Wingers said.

Reichert agreed, commending Wingers for knowing when to retire rather than trying to keep doing a job he might not feel fully committed to.

“I think he’s honestly and truly looking to slow down,” Reichert said. “I don’t think any recent event or clash of personalities is responsible for his leaving.”

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.