How does a native New Yorker end up in Lexington, Kentucky, volunteering with Emergency Management as a planning coordinator?
For Jim Capillo, it has been a road with twists and turns, the one less traveled and one that occasionally finds itself poolside and field-side.
“I grew up in Queens, New York, and got all of my formal education there,” Jim said. “When I graduated from St. John’s University with my JD degree, I was offered a job in Lexington with a small law firm. I moved down right after I took the NY Bar, and fell in love with the area.”
After opening his own law firm for a time, Jim took a position with then Fayette County Attorney Norrie Wake’s office. It was there that he found another calling.
“I became the first full time permanent Juvenile Court Prosecutor in Kentucky. I stayed there for several years,” says Jim. But again, fate and an election cycle intervened and Jim started working with then newly elected Fayette County Jailer Ray Sabbatine.
“I helped re-write his policy and procedures manual and stayed. I had found my niche for the third time and served as a deputy jailer, project manager, captain and major.”
Jim rotated through several other positions at the jail, including liaison to Fayette County Public Schools, staff training coordinator, internal affairs investigator, custody commander and contract compliance officer. Jim retired from the jail last year after 30 years of government service.
Despite his retirement, Jim still finds time to volunteer with emergency management as a planning coordinator.
“The planning coordinator is the person in the emergency operations center who works the crystal ball. It’s our job to figure out what will happen in the next 12 to 24 hours and insure that the logistics people have the resources to get the necessary plans, supplies and tools to the “boots on the ground” who will be coming on board for the next operational period – typically 12 hours. In addition, planners keep an eye on the current situation, coordinating with other agencies. We also stay close to the Division of Code Enforcement to assess and record ongoing property damages.”
The last time Jim sat in the planning chair was during an actual emergency in 2012, when storms bounced over Lexington and struck West Liberty and communities east of Lexington. “We crowded into the second floor of the old Columbia Gas Building hoping nothing hit here. The EOC was opened as a precautionary measure and while no major damage occurred in Fayette County, we did supply mutual aid resources to eastern Kentucky, especially West Liberty.”
In addition to volunteering as an EOC coordinator, Jim stays busy as a TASER instructor and a concealed carry instructor. As an Accreditation Auditor for the American Correctional Association, he travels around the country visiting correctional facilities. The audits compare the actual operations of a correctional facility against the National Best Practice Standards of the ACA.
Jim also volunteers as a referee for swimming, diving, lacrosse and soccer.