Clay County’s Emergency Management Director John Ward announced his retirement Tuesday, just six days into the start of hurricane season.
Ward’s retirement comes after 25 years serving the Clay County community, including 18 years in the emergency management department. According to Clay County Public Information Officer Jessica Barreto, Ward’s retirement will go into effect July 1, 2023.
“Emergency Management Director John Ward is retiring effective July 1, 2023. Deputy Director Mike Ladd is now the Acting Emergency Management Director. We cannot comment on personnel matters, so we will not provide any additional comments,” she said.
Ward posted a video to the county's Emergency Management Facebook page on May 2 announcing Hurricane Preparedness Week. In the video, he told viewers that this hurricane season is predicted to bring approximately 13 storms, six named hurricanes and potentially two major hurricanes.
It is unknown at this time whether the county plans to hire a new Emergency Management Director, or if Mike Ladd will assume the role.
Ward oversaw several severe impacts to Clay County including Hurricanes Matthew, Irma and Ian in 2016, 2017 and 2022. Ward was also a key figure in the county’s announcements and handling of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
“It is with both excitement and sadness that I would like to announce that I have decided to retire,” Ward said in an email to Action News Jax. “As I look to the next chapter, I reflect on the amazing journey the past 25+ years has been. The partnerships and relationships we have built are second to none, as have been proven many times especially during COVID. We managed many incidents, deployments and special events with the processes that you all have assisted in building. Over time we have been able to build a great team that will move Clay County forward into the future for Clay County Emergency Management.”
A spokeswoman for Clay County said residents can expect the same level of clear and constant information ahead of storms and during emergency situations, which is the procedure for Clay County Emergency Management,” a county spokeswoman said. “We have strong partnerships with county leaders, law enforcement, and public safety officials, and we are proud of the team in place that works around the clock during a storm or emergency situation to keep Clay County safe and informed.