FARMINGTON — Olive Toothaker will take a lot of history with her when she leaves the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency on July 31.
She went through the Ice Storm of 1998, Y2K, flooding and the aftermath of tighter security after Sept. 11, 2001.
Toothaker, 69, of Wilton is the deputy director of the county EMA. She has worked in that department for most of her nearly 20 years with the county.
She is getting done at the end of the month.
She has plans that include taking care of her mother, Thelma Frost, who will be 91 on Sunday, July 29.
Toothaker said she started upstairs in the county commissioners' office assisting the economic development director on Dec. 21, 1992. She took a job soon after when it opened up under then EMA Director Clyde Barker. She assisted him with the agency's operation in an office in the basement of the courthouse. She became deputy director under current EMA Director Tim Hardy.
Prior to going to work at the county, she worked G.H. Bass in Wilton for 26 years. She started out as a stitcher and transferred to be head of samples and the prefit stitch room. When Bass closed its shoe manufacturing operations in the U.S. and moved the work oversees, she was out of a job along with the hundreds of others who worked there.
She attended night school to learn computers and then the county job opened up.
“I like working with the public. I like both of my bosses. Both are very compassionate and considerate,” Toothaker said Tuesday.
“She's been a very valuable asset not only to Franklin County Emergency Management Agency but she's assisted all the municipalities in the area with plans and becoming (National Incident Management System) compliant,” Hardy said. “She has also been an asset to the Franklin County commissioners and Franklin County government. She went beyond the scope of her normal daily duties. It's been a great opportunity for me to have such a great mentor with her sharing her knowledge and expertise of emergency management with me.”
Toothaker likes working with firefighters, law enforcement, medical personnel and town authorities on projects that come up and during disasters, including collecting damage reports.
“Clyde and I went through the 1998 Ice Storm. Lessons were learned then,” she said. “We had fire departments checking older people and this is when we found that people would not leave their homes without their pets. That was a lesson well learned.”
So when Hardy came on board, they started working on a list of shelters and pet-friendly shelters so people could bring their pets with them to a shelter, Toothaker said.
On Tuesday, county commissioners approved the county's all hazard emergency response plan that was combined with the county's emergency plan. Toothaker was charged with consolidating eight volumes into one. Years back she had overseen each town's development of an emergency plan. Now all those plans are in one, large book.
Toothaker also remembers when she and Barker went through the Y2K change, when the year changed from 1999 to 2000.
“Clyde and I were here at the emergency operation center and nothing happened,” Toothaker said as she laughed.
The state will consider her retired as of Aug. 1 but she considers it “getting done.”
“You just don't stop doing when you retire after working 50 years of your life,” she said. “I have worked since I was 20 years old.”
Her mother already has plans for her which include cleaning.
Toothaker has nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren with a sixth on the way.
She is hoping to get to travel to visit family out-of-state and continuing her hobbies, including knitting, crocheting, sewing, quilting, gardening and canning.
“I'm going to miss being with the people at the courthouse, in the public and the towns,” she said.