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November 26. 2012 4:39PM

Pope to step down as state homeland security chief in January

CONCORD -- After more than six years in one of the most important posts in state government, Chris Pope will step down in January as the state's Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Gov. John Lynch, in making the announcement Monday, called Pope “an incredible public servant,” who has done “an outstanding job.”

“New Hampshire has seen more than its fair share of natural disasters, and I credit Chris and his team for their leadership in building New Hampshire's response capabilities and coordinating our responses to so many incidents,” Lynch said.

“Chris is always the calm in the center of the storm, leaning forward to ensure New Hampshire is prepared and our citizens protected,” said Lynch.

Pope took over the post in August 2006 and has overseen the state's response to 12 federally declared disasters, especially in 2008, when the state suffered a devastating ice storm as well as flooding from Tropical Storm Hanna and severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.

He came to the job after serving as Concord's fire chief and emergency management coordinator since 2002.

Pope worked his way up through the ranks in Concord Fire Department as a firefighter, paramedic, lieutenant, battalion chief and division commander before becoming chief.

Commissioner of Safety John Barthelmes said Pope “has played an integral part of keeping our citizens safe in the face of many natural disasters.

“I thank Chris for his leadership and dedicated service. He will be missed,” Barthelmes said.

Pope said in a statement he was “grateful for the privilege to serve the State of New Hampshire and especially thankful to Governor Lynch, Commissioner Barthelmes and the incredible team of federal, state and local responders who have demonstrated time and time again how working together in emergencies saves lives and property.”

The governor's office said Pope will spend the next month “working to ensure a smooth transition of the state emergency response function” to Governor-elect Maggie Hassan's administration.

Hassan said in a statement, “I commend Chris Pope for his tireless work to ensure the safety of our citizens for more than six years.

“While I am saddened to see Director Pope depart, after helping guide New Hampshire through 12 federally declared disasters, I understand his need for new challenges. I thank Chris for helping with the transition and for the outstanding work he has done to make New Hampshire a better prepared and safer state.

“There is no more important job for a governor than public safety, and I look forward to working closely with Commissioner Barthelmes in the coming weeks to find a qualified, effective, and responsive Homeland Security and Emergency Management director,” Hassan said.

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