Sussex County promotes Robert W. Murray Jr. as first-ever Public Safety director

Georgetown, Del., April 9, 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 on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, named Robert W. Murray Jr., currently the director of Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, as the first-ever director of the County’s forthcoming Department of Public Safety. The change will officially take effect no later than July 1, however, Mr. Murray in the interim will manage all operations of the facility in an acting capacity, following the retirement of longtime Emergency Operations Center director Joseph L. Thomas in March.

“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,” Mr. 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 – 9-1-1 dispatch, emergency management, and EMS – focused on their respective mandates, with a unified management structure guiding all segments in the overarching 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,” County Administrator Todd F. Lawson said. “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 and rebranded 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. That, coupled with the recent retirement of the longtime emergency management director, Mr. Thomas, prompted officials to re-evaluate the model.

“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,” Mr. Lawson said. “These changes are the next logical step.”

Sussex County’s public safety triad provides a variety of services: 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 Mr. Murray, a 30-year veteran of County government. Robert Mauch will serve as Deputy Director of Public Safety-EMS, Richard Short will serve as Deputy Director of Public Safety-Emergency Operations/9-1-1, and a yet-to-be-named candidate will serve as Deputy Director of Public Safety-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 H. 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,” President Vincent said.


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