Ronald Jackson Heads to CDEMA
An intellectual, hard worker and visionary were some of the accolades echoed by staff and colleagues who bade farewell to outgoing Director General of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), Ronald Hugh Jackson, at a reception held at the agency’s offices in Kingston.
The mood at Thursday’s (March 28) ceremony was reflective as friends and colleagues shared warm, sometimes amusing stories, of Mr. Jackson’s tenure as head of the agency.
Mr. Jackson, who joined the ODPEM in March 2000, became Director General in August 2006. He previously served as Deputy Director General; Senior Director of the Preparedness and Operations Division; and as Regional Coordinator for the Southern parishes.
He will be heading to the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) in Barbados as the new Executive Director. His appointment takes effect on April 3.
Being the head of Jamaica’s disaster preparedness and management agency is no easy feat but based on the tributes, Mr. Jackson effortlessly steered the ship at the ODPEM.
Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Noel Arscott described him as a superb mind that has made a sterling contribution to disaster management and mitigation in the island.
He informed that Mr. Jackson’s new post will allow him to contribute to disaster management on a more regional level and will lead to the advancement and development of programmes in other Caribbean states.
Minister Arscott, who is also Chairman of CDEMA, informed that Mr. Jackson was successful after beating out some 46 other highly qualified applicants for the post.
He said the track records of Mr. Jackson and the ODPEM were crucial factors in his selection as head of the regional body.
The Local Government Minister said Mr. Jackson being at the helm of the organisation will assist in “fine tuning” its responsibility to the countries it serves.
“The expertise that has been built up over the years by ODPEM will not be totally lost because as head of CDEMA he will be integrally involved also with us here in Jamaica…Congratulations on your elevation to your high office. We are proud to see you as a Jamaican head a Caribbean institution,” Mr. Arscott said.
Acting Director General, Richard Thompson thanked Mr. Jackson for the outstanding work he has done at the agency during his 13 years there.
He described Mr. Jackson as being assertive without being abrasive, adding that his demeanor depicts authority that demands respect, but invites dialogue.
“The recognition that you have given to the agency in Jamaica and the Caribbean and the work that you have done is commendable…Your stewardship here has been good…well done for the work that you have done here…you will be missed,” he said.
Mr. Thompson said the team at the agency will ensure that the legacy that was created by the outgoing Director General will be built upon.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Director, Jamaica Information Service (JIS), Donna Marie Rowe described Mr. Jackson as “a man for all seasons” who will continue to make Jamaica proud.
“Storm, hurricane, earthquake, drought, you name it, that’s Ronald! We are so happy to have worked with you during your time at the ODPEM,” she said.
Senior Director, Hazard Mitigation and Weather Services at the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development, Philbert Brown said the skill and advocacy of Mr. Jackson has propelled him to greater regional service.
In highlighting the work of Mr. Jackson he informed that he coordinated the national response to events such as Hurricanes Charley, Ivan, Dennis, Emily, Dean, and Sandy, “these were all critical things that Ronald as head of ODPEM had to be involved in, of course there were some tropical storms and flooding events in the process”.
He noted that Mr. Jackson was integral in facilitating the response in the North-Western Caribbean when Haiti experienced a devastating earthquake in 2010.
He said Mr. Jackson’s new post will allow him to assist in building greater cohesion and unity of action among Caribbean peoples.
“There are peculiarities among us as Caribbean people and we have a role to play not just locally, but across the region in some extent and I congratulate you and I ask you to help us create some more resilient society in the Caribbean,” he said.
Director General, Jamaica Red Cross, Yvonne Clarke, described him as a dedicated public servant who assiduously worked with all partners.
“When we speak of somebody who is bold, bright, young, energetic and sensitive, we are speaking of Ron and he brought all of those qualities to the task here at ODPEM. He brought qualities that can only lead to growth and development,” she said.
In his response, Mr. Jackson thanked the ODPEM staff, partner agencies, and Jamaicans as a whole, for their support during his tenure.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed serving the people of Jamaica over the last 13 years. My greatest joy comes from being in the field working with people in the communities…I don’t think we recognize as a people how resilient we are, we tend to complain a lot but my journey has taught me about the strength and resilience of the Jamaican people,” he said.
Mr. Jackson expressed pride in the fact that he had been able to serve his nation, underscoring that hard work and dedication are key components to being successful.
His years of service, he noted, had been made even more possible with the support of his mother, wife Francine, and family, all of whom he said, supported and nurtured him throughout the years.
Mr. Jackson further acknowledged the tremendous efforts of the ODPEM staff and the government and non-government organisations, which have assisted his work over the years.
“It is bittersweet that I take this journey,” he said, adding that with his departure other individuals will be able to expose their talents and skills.
He noted that regional integration is critical in propelling nation states forward, pointing out that the strength and future of the Caribbean lies in solidifying relationships, and integration.
“I look forward to continue in service of our people…The time has come for us to get together on a regional scale and to use what’s best of all of us to move us collectively forward and so I will be going to play my part in that journey in my space in the risk management community,” he said.
He commended the past leaders of the agency, who he said assisted in honing his skills and propelling the organisation to its esteemed position.
In observation of Mr. Jackson’s legacy, the conference room at the ODPEM was renamed in his honour.
Serving in his capacity as Director General, Mr. Jackson has been instrumental in the formulation of numerous policies and procedures aimed at protecting the Jamaican populace, with special emphasis on the most vulnerable and marginalized. These policies included the development of a guideline for child friendly disaster management.
According to a citation read by Training Manager, ODPEM, Cheryl Nichols, “his voice echoes as an advocate for mainstreaming disaster risk reduction across all sectors of the Jamaican landscape with significant progress in the agricultural and tourism sectors.
“His signature is synonymous with the building disaster community model institutionalized in Jamaica and currently being adopted as best practice across other geographic spheres,” she read.
The ceremony was also attended by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Arun Kashyap; Managing Director, Gleaner Company, Christopher Barnes; Meteorologist, Evan Thompson; ODPEM board members, Erica Eubanks and Uphel Purcell; members of the ODPEM staff; members of the private sector, government, and non-governmental organisations.