Col. (Ret.) Charles Webb and his wife, Gloria, were honored by the Coffee County E911 Board, Alabama E911 Board, Coffee County EMA and the Coffee County Commission during a retirement recognition at the commission’s regularly scheduled Dec. 9 meeting.
Charles Webb served as Coffee County’s first EMA director and then later as the county’s first E911 board chairman before he retired in July 2019 after 29 years of service to the county. His wife, Gloria, was with him on the E911 board from its creation until she retired alongside him in July 2019.
Charles Webb was chosen as the county’s first EMA director out of 43 applicants after the 1990 Elba flood.
“Then, of course, in 1990 something very bad also happened over in Elba; we dealt with the 1990 flood,” said current Coffee County E911 Board Chairman Dean Blair. “At that point in time we didn’t have an EMA director or anything along those lines and the state basically said, ‘Y’all got to have an EMA director if you want to continue to get funding.’”
“We have the honor to recognize Mr. Webb today and—I can tell you—as he shifted into the EMA role, he moved Coffee County forward,” Blair said. “There’s only been a couple people to follow Mr. Webb in that EMA role.”
Part of that forward movement in Coffee County was the unique way Charles Webb set up the CCEMA. According to current EMA Director James Brown, Charles Webb made sure that the CCEMA answered to everyone instead of just one entity.
“Many people in EMA throughout the state call me all the time, because there’s only two boards in the state in two different counties set up the way Charlie decided to set this up, and everybody’s jealous,” Brown said. “We work for a board of the mayors and the county commission, and with that we’re owned by everybody. That’s a good thing, because we don’t have loyalty to any one person. We help everybody.
“Without Charlie’s foundation, we would be seen as a county asset or city asset, but instead we’re seen as a whole asset for everybody.”
During his time as EMA director, Charles Webb would eventually start taking roles related to the E911 Board, according to Blair. Then in 1999, he and his wife became two founding members of the Coffee County E911 Board with Charles as chairman and Gloria as bookkeeper and board member.
“While they were part of this 911 board doing all the work they did, Mr. Webb never accepted a salary from the board or the commission as 911 board chairman or director of 911,” Blair said. “Neither did his wife. I don’t know how we can say more about these two individuals.”
As chairman of the board, Charles Webb would, again, create a unique and effective setup, this time for the dispatch of emergency services in Coffee County.
“Where a lot of communities have gone out and built these central dispatches, we didn’t do that,” said Coffee County E911 Coordinator Marvin McIlwain. “It was proposed. In the end, what we did was we used our two established dispatch centers in Elba and Enterprise, primarily the largest ones in the county, and we set it up so that one essentially handled one part of the county and the other handled the other half.
“The beauty of the whole system is this: We built two systems that mirrored each other. If one goes down, the other one takes right up without missing a beat. That has been tested during the well-remembered tornado that hit Enterprise. It worked, and we’re very proud of that fact.”
Blair added that Charles Webb’s life of service began before his time serving Coffee County. He was drafted into the Army in December of 1956 and would continuously serve in the military until his retirement on Aug. 31, 1987, after 31 years. During his military career, Charles Webb flew missions in Vietnam and the Korean War as an air ambulance pilot, served as Chief of Staff of the Army Aeromedical Center and Deputy Commander of Administration of Lyster Army Hospital at Fort Rucker.
In his military career, Charles Webb earned several accolades such as the Purple Heart, Air Medal with Valor with 27 oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal with two oakleaf clusters and the Vietnam Service Medal with Silver Star.
It was also in the military that Charles Webb met current Coffee County Sheriff Dave Sutton who expressed his appreciation for Charles at the recognition event.
Enterprise Police Chief T.D. Jones said it was an honor to have known Charles Webb throughout the years.
The Coffee County E911 Board and Alabama 911 Board both presented Gloria and Charles with plaques commending their years of service.
Charles Webb thanked everyone for their kind remarks and his wife for supporting him throughout the years.
“She was with me all the way,” Charles Webb said. “One of the good things that I had that a lot of people don’t have in their working careers is (I) don’t just work with people — some of them are friends.
“I just thank my wife for putting up with all of this.”