MEMA director moving to federal agency


AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine Emergency Management Agency Director Arthur Cleaves is leaving his state post to become New England director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. John Baldacci announced Cleaves’ departure Friday evening. Word of Cleaves’ move circulated during the week as state officials oversaw response and recovery efforts in flood-stricken York County.

“Art has served Maine admirably through some of the most trying times we have faced in recent years, including this most recent emergency in York County,” Baldacci said in a statement. “I have valued Art’s ability and leadership, and while we will certainly miss him in Maine, I am proud that he will continue to serve our state, as well as the other New England states, in his new role with FEMA.”

Baldacci said he and Maj. Gen. John Libby of the Maine National Guard had asked Charles Jacobs, who has served for the past three years as assistant director for homeland security, to become interim MEMA director.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee that oversees FEMA, said she had supported Cleaves for the federal post.

“I am pleased to have recommended Art for this important position. Through my chairmanship on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I have worked closely with Art Cleaves and know him to be an outstanding advocate for state homeland security issues, and a proponent of reforming the homeland security grant programs.

“His departure will be a huge loss for MEMA, but one counterbalanced by the fact that Art will run the FEMA regional office that covers our state. As we are witnessing now in response to the floods that have devastated parts of York County, FEMA plays a key role in responding to-and helping communities recover from-disasters both natural and man made,” Collins said in a statement.

FEMA’s Region I, in which Cleaves is to serve as director, covers the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Jacobs previously worked as deputy commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services in the King administration.

In making Friday’s announcement, Baldacci praised MEMA’s recent performance in southern Maine.

“The successful response, recovery and coordination efforts for this disaster are a direct result of a very well-trained and responsive state emergency operations center which Art Cleaves has led so admirably. The people of Maine have been well served by Art, and will continue to be well served under the leadership of Charlie Jacobs.”

Central Maine Power Co. on Friday urged homeowners dealing with flooded basements to operate sump pumps safely.

“Sump pumps are a good tool for preventing flood damage in your basement, but electricity and water are a lethal mix, and failure to take proper precautions can be deadly,” said CMP spokesman John Carroll. “Like generators, it’s best to have sump pumps installed by a qualified electrician who can take the steps necessary to ensure safe operation.”