April 17, 2024

Castillo quits emergency management; Duckworth to stay


Bonnie Castillo, who was hired last summer to replace Union County Emergency Management Commission Director Jo Duckworth later this year, resigned Wednesday effective immediately ending months of turmoil between the two. The commission board approved the resignation.

Duckworth, who last month rescinded her retirement plan with board approval, will continue as director, also approved by the board.

Both Castillo and Duckworth were in attendance at the meeting. The meeting began with Castillo announcing her resignation.

“After a lot of thought and prayer, I have reconsidered my decision to stay in Union County Emergency Management program,” she said reading her statement. “When I started, I was excited to bring my experience and passion to Union County, the county I was born and raised in.”

But what has happened since she started in July, has not been productive. Castillo was hired in July 2023 to be trained and eventually replace Duckworth in July.

Union County Human Resource director Paul Greufe said on Aug. 28 he was contacted by Duckworth about concerns with Castillo and her performance. Is


sues were discussed during an October meeting.

Greufe said he was informed Castillo was not honest with Duckworth and with other people. The accusations also included Castillo feeding feral cats outside the office building, which was prohibited. Castillo said Duckworth never told her not to feed the cats. Castillo claimed she fed the cats nine days. She also did not remember conversations with Duckworth about feeding cats.

Castillo claimed if Duckworth didn’t agree with someone “she removes them.”

Castillo said Wednesday Duckworth sent her a text, but did not specify when.

“I don’t wish you any ill will, Bonnie,” Castillo said reciting Duckworth’s text. “I just want to make the best of a terrible situation. I really am stuck between a rock and a hard space,” as Castillo continued reciting the text.

“Although it is not an apology, I accepted it as one and told her I would try to help find a solution,” Castillo said. “So tonight I choose to bow out gracefully, I am taking myself out of your uncomfortable choice between Jo rescinding her retirement or me continuing with the program. With me out of equation, your choice will be what you believe best for the program and not what is best for me or Jo. I would like to thank each of you for your commitment to this program and wish the Union County Emergency Management program the absolute best,” Castillo said.

Castillo offered a two-week notice but added it would not be practical or a wise use of funds since there would be no benefit for her to work another two weeks. Earlier this year, Castillo said she was working part time while being trained at emergency management and had another part-time job elsewhere. The commission board agreed to have the resignation effective immediately.

The board held an approximate 30-minute closed session with legal counsel before approving Duckworth to stay in the coordinator position, which she has had since 2008. Despite Duckworth’s desire to continue working, the board last month upheld in a 7-2 vote her original intent to retire effective July 1.

Duckworth said her idea of rescinding her retirement plan was strongly influenced by the health of her husband Mike who she said was diagnosed with cancer in August 2023. He died in January.

“I confronted a deeply personal decision,” she said. “His prognosis was daunting. Concern for my well being...and stability my work provided...Mike encouraged me to delay retirement. Recognizing the solace, purpose it offered during such trying times. This led me to seek the commission’s understanding and support in October as I grappled with this decision.”

Duckworth said last month the job was needed as a source of income and benefits.

“I harbor no regrets for years of service to the commission, Union County and its constituents,” she said.

In other emergency commission news...

Board chairman Dennis Brown, who also serves as a Union County Supervisor, agreed to continue as chairman until the end of year. Earlier this year, the board approved Chris Knouse to take over as chairman July 1. Brown explained his interest of not being chairman. Brown said Knouse has resigned from the board. Knouse was not at Wednesday’s meeting. Terry Gilbert was named vice chairman in January.

The board will wait to act on members after the November election which includes county sheriff on the ballot.

The commission is made up of representatives from each town in the county and the county.

Duckworth said the weather emergency sirens are scheduled to be activated at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 27 as part of weather emergency awareness week. The siren in Thayer needs repair and Shannon City does not have a siren. Duckworth said there are smartphone apps people can use to also receive weather warnings and are commonly used throughout the county by residents.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.