Emergency Services History and Staff

Abby Watkins
Emergency Services
  • 306 North Street, PO Box 885
    White Cloud, MI 49349
    M-F 8am-5pm
  • (231) 689-7354
    (231) 689-7305

His predecessor Dick Black managed four Presidential Disaster Declarations back to back including the flood of September 1975, ice storm of March 1976, and January Blizzards of 1977 and 1978. In the early 1980s, the program was renamed to the Emergency Services Department. Donald Betts became the county’s first Emergency Services Director. He directed the program for over 20 years and managed the County’s largest disaster, the Flood of 1986. With the addition of Homeland Security in 2002, the focus on the program grew. When Don retired in 2006, Newaygo County re-evaluated the program and determined the need to move from a part time program to a full time program. Russ Kolski was brought in to manage the transition period. The current program director, Abigail Watkins was appointed in January of 2007 by the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners as the first full time Emergency Services Director in Newaygo County. 

Director Abigail (Abby) Watkins

Director Abby Watkins has seventeen years of experience in Emergency Management within the State of Michigan. She has served as the Newaygo County Emergency Services Director since 2007 and has coordinated 2 Presidential Disaster Declaration for Flooding and a Pandemic, 3 Governor’s Disaster Declaration for Severe Storms and Flooding, and numerous local emergency disaster declarations. She is a certified Professional Emergency Manager and a Community Emergency Response Team Instructor through the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. Director Watkins is also a certified Incident Command Instructor through Center for Domestic Preparedness, a certified Master Exercise Practitioner and an Advanced Public Information Officer through the Emergency Management Institute, a licensed Medical First Responder, and certified American Heart Association Instructor. Abby holds an associate’s degree in Business Management.

As the Newaygo County Emergency Services Director, Abby also serves at the Program Manager for all services coordinated by the department. Director Watkins chairs the Local Emergency Planning Team, is the secretary/treasurer for the Newaygo County Fire Chiefs Association, secretary for the Region 6 Homeland Security Planning Board, and emergency management representative on the Region 6 Healthcare Coalition. Abby served on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Dam Safety Taskforce from 2020 – 2021 and is currently serving on the Michigan Citizen-Community Emergency Response Coordinating Council (MCCERCC).

In February 2018 Director Watkins received a Wildfire Mitigation Award for her innovation and leadership displayed in her wildfire mitigation efforts. The Wildfire Mitigation Awards are sponsored by the National Association of State Foresters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Fire Protection Association, and the USDA Forest Service. In addition, Abby was recognized in 2008, 2009, and 2015 for her work in Emergency Management by the Michigan Emergency Management Association and was awarded Coordinator of the Year for under 60,000 population.

Deputy Director Josh Westgate

Deputy Director Joshua Westgate has served Newaygo County as Wildfire Mitigation Specialist since June of 2021.  He has managed several large Wildfire Mitigation projects.  He was promoted to Deputy Director in August 2023. 

Prior to his time with Newaygo County, Josh has served in several different senior executive leadership positions in township government. He has also served on several local, regional, and state boards. He graduated from Grand Valley State University, Seidman School of Business with a Bachelor of Business Management and is also a graduate of the Michigan Townships Association Township Governance Academy. In addition, he is certified by the Michigan Department of Treasury, as a Michigan Certified Assessing Officer (MCAO).  Josh is a certified Professional Emergency Manager (PEM) through Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division.

Josh has 12 years of crisis management; has coordinated and managed many community events and has extensive training and experience in disaster response.  Josh also has taught business and economic classes for Junior Achievement and volunteered for the Marne Lions Club at community events.

As the Deputy Director, Josh Coordinates the Newaygo County Community Emergency Response Team and Medical Reserve Corps (CERT/MRC) Volunteer Team.  Under the direction of the Newaygo County Emergency Services Department, the CERT and MRC Team train volunteer team members in basic response skills. Team members also help with non-emergency projects that help improve the safety of the community. Under Josh’s direction, the CERT and MRC team will maintain  established strong partnerships with local emergency first responders and regional community leaders making them an integral part of the local Emergency Management System.