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RBC | Rio Blanco County has a new employee in a brand new position heading into spring.
Edward (Eddie) Smercina has been on the job for about one month with the newly created title of “Emergency and Natural Resources Manager,” a combination of two formerly distinct jobs within the county.
Though his title may be new, Smercina said the combination of roles makes sense in a county like Rio Blanco. “It definitely ties in a lot, especially when you’re talking about wildfire and oil and gas, and a lot of hazard mitigation.”
Smercina grew up in Craig, and recently graduated from Chadron State University earning a bachelor’s degree in rangeland management with an emphasis in wildlife. He also spent two summers doing reclamation work with the Twenty Mile Mine’s environmental engineering department. “The first summer I did an internship, my second summer I went back just because I enjoyed it,” said Smercina, adding that he specifically enjoyed and learned a lot about land management during that time.
He believes that background was a big reason why the county hired him, since he admits he doesn’t have as much experience in emergency management. Luckily however, he works under Commissioner Ty Gates, the former emergency manager.
Smercina says in addition to providing specialized training, the commissioners have all been helpful in getting him up to speed on his various job responsibilities. One month in, and he’s figuring out his own time-management system for handling the new position effectively.
“One third I use for emergency management, one third I use for natural resources, and one third I use for oil and gas,” he said, describing a sort of balancing act.
Smercina noted that much of his time goes to working directly with the oil and gas industry, due in part to pressure on operators created by changes to federal and state laws. “Oil and gas is changing, it’s not going away in the county, but it’s definitely changing a lot. Especially with a lot of the federal government changes that they’re doing to NEPA and everything like that right now,” he said.
State pressure also plays a role, according to Smercina. He noted the large number of orphaned wells the state has identified in RBC, fortunately he’s also ready for that type of work. “That was more my wheelhouse stepping into this position, the reclamation side of things,” he said.
One aspect he did not expect was how political the job could be. “My second week on the job, [Commissioner] Gary Moyer and I testified on two wolf bills down at the capitol,” said Smercina, adding “that was a really good eye-opener for me to understand the role of politics in our lives.”
With a job that involves balancing the interests and goals of a myriad of government agencies, industry players and residents of two different communities, Smercina takes a simple and honest approach. “A lot of it is just being seen, cause if you’re not being seen, you’re not being heard, and that’s kind of what I’ve come to figure out.”\
When it comes down to it, Eddie Smercina says his ultimate priority is representing the county and the will of the people living in it. “With everything I do I speak for the county, and the people of the county. I just wanna make sure that the livelihood of this area is protected and it’s not gonna be infringed upon by other governing bodies, or other areas around the state.”
By LUCAS TURNER | firstname.lastname@example.org