Mike Willow was one of the early members of the Beeville Volunteer Ambulance Service back when no one got paid for driving an ambulance or saving a life here.
He also served as a reservist for the Beeville Police Department and left that position in 1990 when he took a job with the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
A native of Detroit, Willow came to NAS Chase Field with the U.S. Navy in 1974. Four years later he married a local girl, Melva Olivares, and settled down to make Beeville home.
After leaving the Navy, Willow spent a few years in the oil field and eventually landed a civil service position at Chase Field.
“I did the same job I did when I was in the Navy,” Willow said.
He stayed with civil service until 1990 when it became apparent that the Navy would end its operation at Chase.
“I jumped ship,” Willow said. He landed a position as a correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Institution at Three Rivers. He retired as a trust fund supervisor in 2010.
Willow said he served as a hostage negotiator and a training cadre for the federal prison system’s South Central Region.
In mid-February, the Bee County Commissioners Court hired Willow to replace Robert Bridge, who left the position to seek election to the Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 position being vacated by longtime Judge Ted Staples.
“It’s an interesting job,” Willow said. “You’re never bored.”
He said one of his first jobs will be to complete Bridge’s plans for upgrading the county’s Emergency Operations Center.
That operation is conducted on the second floor of the Bee County Justice Center where Willow maintains an office.
Willow works with County Judge David Silva and all fire chiefs in the county to coordinate countywide burn bans. He was instrumental in having the most recent burn ban canceled so that residents in the county could burn trash and unwanted brush while the conditions are favorable.
He also worked with Assistant Police Chief Richard Cantu to obtain a $15,000 grant for the Beeville Police Department for 12 new radios.
Willow said one of the best parts of the new job is being able to work with the county’s emergency planning committee. He said the committee is made up of 20 active members who represent professions in a number of emergency services. That includes physicians, representatives of the oil and gas industry, county fire departments, the city police, the Bee County Sheriffs Office and other area emergency coordinators.
Willow is looking forward to the experience, and he expects to do all he can to help Bee County always be prepared for any emergency situation that might arise.
One of those projects will be an upcoming tornado drill. But Willow said that will involve mostly emergency personnel and not the community at large.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.