GOLIAD – After a career that included working as a school teacher, serving in the U.S. Army and working in environmental safety labs for DuPont, it would have been easy for Jimmy Schulze to enjoy his retirement years on his Goliad County ranch.
Instead, he has stepped into a vital role for the county during a time of pandemic, taking on responsibilities as emergency management coordinator for Goliad County.
That was a role that County Judge Mike Bennett previously held along with his numerous other responsibilities, until Schulze offered to serve the county in that capacity.
For a while, Schulze’s compensation was only $1,000 a month until the Goliad County Commissioners Court authorized an increase to $2,000 monthly while the county remains in a crisis situation.
While COVID-19 has taken center stage for emergency management coordinators statewide, that’s far from the only area of responsibility they face. Among the numerous areas of preparation are helping to make sure Goliad County is as prepared as it can be if either a hurricane, tropical storm or other natural disaster threatens the area.
It’s a tall task, and the towering responsibility is far greater than Schulze anticipated when he agreed to take the job.
“Nobody could have anticipated this (the pandemic), and it’s a very difficult thing to prepare for,” he said. “On top of that, when I started in the job, the budget had been depleted, there weren’t any supplies and there were hardly any files in the office (for emergency preparation).”
Starting almost for scratch, Schulze said he worked slowly but surely to build the county’s resources. After a mostly uneventful 2019, 2020 hit with the impact of a freight train, and has led to some seven-day work weeks.
Although it hasn’t been an easy task, Schulze said it is one that he has enjoyed.
“I enjoy this — and I enjoy safety work,” he said. “For 29 years I worked in health and environmental safety and that helped prepare me. I also served as a volunteer firefighter. I want to work with the schools more to help them. Whatever the task is, I don’t run away. I try to run to it.”
What has been his biggest challenge?
“Getting up in the morning,” Schulze said with a laugh. “Trying to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s hard to do and not hurt people’s feelings. I’m a negotiator and want to work with people, but I am still going to do what’s right.”
Schulze raises longhorns and breeds them with angus cattle, and is a member of the American Legion, Rotary and is involved with county history and library events. He traces his Texas roots to 1822, and his family had a ranch in the Fannin area in 1841.
It’s those ties to the area which also have an impact on his dedication to helping the community prepare for whatever emergency may arise.
“Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people how bad (the pandemic) is, and how important it is for us to be prepared. It isn’t always easy to respond to a crisis and to plan for disasters, but it is something we have to do.”