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‘We’ve got this’: Sue Henry named new Chief of Calgary Emergency Management Agency

Calgary’s new chief of emergency management said the previous chief taught them to think about which stakeholders weren’t at the table during a crisis.

They were taught to move faster than the speed of government.

Sue Henry, the current deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA), was announced Friday as the new leader of the city’s crisis response group.

Current Chief Tom Sampson leaves his post Nov. 30. Henry will take over as chief Dec. 1.

Henry has been CEMA’s deputy chief since 2015.

Richard Hinse, director of Calgary Community Standards, introduced Henry as the new chief Friday.

“What every member of emergency service knows is that when your shift is over, you must be able to walk away knowing the person coming in behind you has got this,” Hinse said.

He said after an international search with candidates from Hong Kong, California, Texas and across Canada, the best candidate was in Calgary.

“I have every confidence that Sue Henry will lead CEMA in Calgary through the remainder of this pandemic, and onward,” he said.

Henry, who has led emergency response to the 2013 floods, the Fort Mac fires, the Slave Lake fires, said she’s up for the challenge.

“I want to start by saying how honoured I am to have the opportunity to lead this agency and to serve Calgarians in this new role,” Henry said during the Friday announcement.

“You may be nervous to see a less familiar face standing at the podium. I want to reassure you, we’ve got this.”

High praise from Chief Tom Sampson

CEMA Chief, Tom Sampson, in a screenshot from a press conference earlier this year.

Henry’s depth of experience in emergency management made her the obvious choice said outgoing Chief Tom Sampson.

He said he couldn’t imagine how CEMA would have progressed without her. He called her a mathematician who went into emergency management.

“As any member of emergency management knows… You have to be able to walk away with confidence knowing that your shoes have been filled,” Chief Sampson said.

“I can tell you that I have not a shred of doubt Chief Henry will be a strong leader for you.”

Henry holds a Masters of Science in Emergency Management from Jacksonville State University. She’s a Certified Emergency Manager with the International Association of Emergency Management and received the Medal of Honour for her role in the 2011 Slave Lake wildfires. Henry is also a past winner of the Emergency Management Exemplary Service Award from Public Safety Canada.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi insisted that the search be for the very best person. He didn’t have a say in who it was, just that the search be extensive.

“And so, they did – and we got the very best person in the world,” Mayor Nenshi said.  

“And luckily, she’s been with us this entire time.”

Henry said working with Chief Sampson was a master class in leadership.

“I’m grateful for all that I have learned from you, as a mentor, as a friend and all that you have done for this organization,” she said.