Sussex County promotes Murray to lead new Department of Public Safety

April 12, 2024

Sussex County’s public safety agencies, including its 9-1-1 operations, emergency management and paramedic programs, will undergo a major reorganization into a new Department of Public Safety in the coming months, with a familiar face leading the county’s delivery of critical services to those living in and visiting southern Delaware.

County officials announced April 9 that they have selected Robert W. Murray Jr., the current Sussex County Emergency Medical Services director, to lead the new department. The change will officially take effect no later than July 1, but in the interim, Murray will manage all operations of the facility in an acting capacity, following the recent retirement of longtime Emergency Operations Center Director Joseph Thomas.

“It is an honor to be appointed as the director of the newly formed Department of Public Safety. I look forward to learning more about the EOC and emergency management, and working with leadership to create a department that will position Sussex County for the future,” Murray said. “I believe this is a monumental step in advancing the delivery of public safety services in Sussex County, one that will allow us to draw on each individual and division’s strengths, and coordinate our efforts, from dispatchers and emergency managers to paramedics, to provide the best service and care possible.”

Recent events made the timing right to reorganize the county government’s public safety apparatus into one centralized department of three divisions – emergency management, 9-1-1 dispatch and EMS – focused on their respective mandates, with a unified management structure guiding all segments in the public safety mission. That will enhance collaboration, improve efficiency and put the county in line with the standard found elsewhere in Delaware and across the nation.

“Ultimately, these are professionals in the same business, but with different functions,” said County Administrator Todd Lawson. “It makes sense to bring them all together under one roof.”

Since 2023, all three of the county’s public safety branches have been housed at the recently expanded Sussex County Emergency Operations Complex next to Delaware Coastal Airport outside Georgetown. The paramedic service relocated into a nearly 20,000-square-foot addition last summer.

“These agencies developed at different times and in varying phases over the years, but that created a legacy in terms of siloed management and delivery of services that we knew needed to eventually shift,” Lawson said. “These changes are the next logical step.”

Sussex County’s 9-1-1 call-takers and dispatchers answer more than 120,000 police, fire and medical calls annually; the paramedic corps augments local fire/ambulance companies with critical, life-saving care during acute medical calls; and the emergency management side prepares for, trains and responds to various disasters, including natural and human-caused events.

With the newly created public safety directorship, those three divisions will be managed by deputy directors who answer to Murray, a 30-year veteran of county government. Robert Mauch will serve as deputy director for EMS, Richard Short will take on the role of deputy director for emergency operations/9-1-1, and a third candidate will serve as deputy director for emergency management. County officials hope to advertise, interview for and fill that role by early summer, in time for hurricane season.

County Council President Michael Vincent said the county is fortunate to have most of the pieces already in place, so the transition should be fairly seamless. “We’re excited for Robbie and the team, and we have every confidence these dedicated men and women will continue to deliver the finest level of service that Sussex County is known for,” said Vincent.


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