May 29, 2024

Former county EMA staff member at Harrison County


Aaron Hickman

Bonnie Castillo’s first day as director of Harrison County EMA was April 1.

The hire comes after a months-long search following the departure of former Director Phillip Davis in November.

Castillo, who grew up in Creston and graduated from high school there, went to Southwestern Community College where she received an associate degree in accounting and computer programming.

Working at the Iowa Department of Transportation for close to 18 years, Castillo most recently worked as the emergency management assistant for Union County.

Leaving the DOT in 2021, Castillo said the needs of her child were more important than what the job required of her.

She took the Union County position last July, which was created with the intent that she would take the role of director on July 1, 2024.

But several significant life events took place in the life of the current director, which caused her not to consider retirement as an option at this time, Castillo said, so she turned her attention toward work elsewhere, which resulted in the Harrison County job.

Castillo resigned from Union County on March 20, effective immediately. It ended eight months of a tenuous relationship with director Jo Duckworth who had planned to be replaced by Castillo.

In late August, Union County’s human resource director was contacted by Duckworth and informed Castillo had fed feral cats outside the building, when told not to. Duckworth also accused Castillo of other incidents of insubordination. The strained working relationship lasted through winter. Castillo claimed Duckworth was not being fully trained for the director position and said if Duckworth didn’t like someone the plan was “to get rid of them.” Castillo said she was working part time at the emergency management office and had another part-time job.

Earlier this year, the Union County board rescinded Duckworth’s retirement plan and she will continue in the director position. Duckworth’s husband died in early January and Duckworth said she needs the income and benefits.

Castillo has different feelings in Harrison County.

“I’ve never felt so welcomed,” she said. “My commission has reached out, and I’ve had a lot of great support already... I feel like Harrison County will be a great fit for me. It feels like all of my stakeholders are going to be great to work with.”

In Union County, Castillo said she was able to get a great feel for what the director position looks like. But her most valuable experience came with the DOT.

She would typically have two years to complete all of her state and federal courses and requirements for the job, but she was able to complete them while in Union County. Because of that, Castillo is ahead of the curve.

Currently, she is going through the busy period of getting her office set up, meeting new people and establishing the work she has set out for herself.

That upcoming work she already has on the docket includes emergency support functions that have to be submitted to the state by August, writing a grant that needs to be done by the end of this month and figuring out the logistics of holding two exercises that fulfill state requirements.

She has also been reaching out to area fire departments, hospitals and schools so she can do a gap analysis to see where the county’s emergency management can help.

“If you have a car accident, you have a few people who are needing assistance,” Castillo said. “When you have a large-scale event the resources are very limited, so it’s about talking with people about how they can prepare themselves to respond.”

Castillo starts at a salary of $65,000, and her office is located at the courthouse annex at 116 N 2nd Ave. in Logan.

“If anyone has questions or just wants to drop in, they’re more than welcome,” she said.

This story was first published by The Dunlap Reporter, part of Enterprise Media Group.

Creston News Advertiser contributed to this story