The number of people infected with COVID-19 is increasing in St. Johns County. At the same time, hurricane season has already spun a few storms in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.
And the Republicans are coming to Jacksonville for their presidential convention in August.
“Emergency management never stops,” said Linda Stoughton, the emergency management director for St. Johns County.
With that backdrop, Stoughton will retire from her job at serving the county since 1985 – the last six as the department head that deals with planning, preparation, prevention and response following an emergency.
“This retirement has been planned since March,” she said Tuesday, minutes after meeting with county commissioners to a new strategy to address a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. “While I have dedicated my career to St. Johns County and Florida Forest Service, it’s time. We’ve got a strong team here who are going to carry on. When it’s time for those decisions to be made, you make it.”
With so many projects in the works – and the possibility of other unforeseen threats – there is little time for Stoughton to slow down, much less reflect on spending the last 36 years in public service. But when she leaves, she won’t be tied to news flashes, cellphone alerts or desperate calls in the middle of the night.
“It hasn’t been the focus of myself or the focus of the county to talk about retirement,” she said. “We’re focused on planning, operations for COVID and hurricane season, so not a lot has come out publicly. The board [of county commissioners] gave us some new direction, so we’re working feverishly. It’s not really a new direction, but an increased operation.”
But in a few days, she will walk away.
“We are planning on traveling,” she said. “We’re going to move into a new phase.”
Stoughton’s last day will be July 2. A replacement hasn’t been announced.
While she’s leaving one of the most-stressful jobs in the county, she won’t be slowing down.
“I’m either going to be 10,000 feet up [in the air] or 100 feet down [diving],” she said.
“Certainly, we are going to enjoy some family time and spend some time traveling. This is home. We’re not going to be gone for too long.”