Cullman EMA Director, Phyllis Little, announces her retirement to be at the end of 2021. So, on January 1st, 2022, Phyllis Little will wake up and enjoy whatever she wants without worrying about the weather forecast or preparing for special events here in Cullman.
Phyllis Little became an employee of Cullman County EMA in September of 1995. She would become the EMA Director for Cullman County on May 27th, 2003. She would eventually become one of the greatest EMA Directors of all time, not just in Alabama but across the nation. Little has served as President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary for the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers and received several distinguished awards over the years, including the Pat Neuhauser Spirit of Emergency Management Award, the Clayton Christopher Memorial Award, the Distinguished Service Award for the North Alabama Mutual Assistance Association, the Cullman Times 2020 Distinguished Citizen of the Year Award, and the Alabama EMA Director Award. The award list goes on and on for Little, but she insists none of the awards would be possible without the citizens of Cullman County and a collective effort of local officials and the staff of Cullman County EMA.
Phyllis Little has never been big on receiving recognition but today is her day. Little has worked through catastrophic events like the April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreak, Hurricane Katrina, large concerts, traffic situations, and various events. As an EMA Director, you have to be in a mindset of worst-case scenarios and plan for something that has not occurred. What if Smith Lake or Duck River Dam broke? What if there were a mass shooting or a major chemical spill that impacted our water supply? These are some examples of what goes through the mind of Phyllis daily. It can be an exhausting job, but for the last twenty-six years, she has dedicated her life to not only taking care of what happened but also taking care of the what if’s.
One of the most outstanding achievements Little accomplished was in 2004 with establishing the state mortuary team. What would start as a Cullman County team quickly became state-wide after writing and receiving a grant in 2005. By 2006, the first mobile mortuary unit was on site at the Cullman County EMA office. In 2008, the team became part of the Alabama Mutual Aid System.
The impact Phyllis Little has made in the last 26 years is unprecedented. Here are a few quotes from public officials that have worked with her in the past years.
Former Cullman County Chairman Kenneth Walker said, “It was an honor to work alongside Phyllis Little. She is the hardest working EMA Director out there, and the love she offers the Cullman community goes beyond expectation. She has claimed many well-deserved awards over her years with Cullman County EMA. In 2018, I had the honor of recognizing her for the Pat Neuhauser Spirit of Emergency Management Award presented by the Alabama Association of Emergency Managers. Whoever steps in the new role of EMA Director will have big shoes to fill.”
Cullman County Commission Chairman Jeff ‘Clem’ Clemons said, “Phyllis Little has been an asset to the County Commission as well as the Citizens of Cullman County for over 25 years. I have worked with Phyllis throughout the years when I was in law enforcement and the last eight months as Chairman. Her work ethic is an inspiration to all of us. As the Emergency Management Agency Director, she has always been dedicated to putting in whatever hours necessary to make sure Cullman County is safe. She is humble, gracious, and respected by her co-workers. She will leave a legacy behind that will be cherished by everyone. My best wishes and thoughts are with you and your family for happiness and good fortune throughout your retirement.”
Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry said, “Cullman County EMA Director Phyllis Little has been a staple in Cullman County for many years. She has always gone above and beyond to help the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office and the citizens of Cullman County. Her years of service have set a high standard for all those she has come in contact with during her career. Her willingness, professionalism, and dedication to excellence is a quality that will be hard to replace. On behalf of the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office, we pray God’s blessings on her retirement and future endeavors.”
A message from a former Cullman County EMA colleague Kelly Allen, “Phyllis was more like a friend than a boss. She is a great leader and is dedicated to her job. She is always looking for better ways to serve the citizens of Cullman County. If the office was activated for anything day or night, she was the first one through the door unless out of town on business. Phyllis will be missed in the coming days.”
Cullman Daily would like to wish Mrs. Phyllis Little the best in her upcoming retirement. Thank you for your selfless service to the Cullman community. “Over the years, we have worked with EMA Directors throughout Alabama. Phyllis is undoubtedly the best around. When you see the day in and day out workload that she can accomplish, it is mindblowing. We at Cullman Daily hate to see her transition to retirement, but we certainly wish her the best,” said Jamie Speakman