In a Maryville High School yearbook from 1986, there is a picture of then football team co-captain Bart Stinnett posing at the city line with a caption that reads, “Guarding the Borders.” At the time he was guarding the borders in defense of the team’s football fortunes.
Given Stinnett’s new job, the photo almost proved prophetic. In March, the Maryville High School graduate returned home from working in Pigeon Forge in law enforcement when he was named emergency management director for Blount County. This month marks six months on the job for Stinnett. He shared recently some of the challenges he’s face and some of the reasons he’s confident in this community’s ability to handle emergencies.
“It has been a real eye-opener for me,” Stinnett said
Stinnett said he’s learned that when responding to a scene, he never knows what he’ll be asked to do. “At the scene, you do what you have to do to get the job done,” he said.
Much of what Stinnett does to help at emergency scenes happens before the emergency ever occurs. He spends a lot of time writing for and applying for grants to help the different emergency management agencies.
“The way we do grants is to do grant meetings and talk about what each department needs. Everybody decides what equipment we need, and we go out and try to get it,” he said.
Stinnett praised Kathy Shields, assistant director, for her work with the office. “I can’t begin to tell you what a benefit she has been,” he said.
Stinnett explained his job this way. “We deal with coordinating any emergency response to a major incident response. We’re a resource for the sheriff, fire chief, police chief. For any emergency, we help coordinate the response,” he said.
His office also puts together response plans, help departments obtain equipment and funding. “It’s a constant resource of things they need, and planning is the big thing. You’re talking natural disasters, weather, chemical spills,” he said. “We’ll help assist if there’s a tornado strike. We’ll assist with shelter, finding the necessary resources they’re going to need as far as FEMA money, grants money.”
Stinnett said much of what he does involves simply getting along with different people. “I believe that is the key -- being able to get along with all the different agencies and their people,” Stinnett said. “They have to be able to know you’re going to be there for assistance when they need help.”
Stinnett answers directly to County Mayor Jerry Cunningham. The salary is funded by the different cities and the county.
Stinnett said because of his training, he understands how all the agencies will come together for a sole purpose, “I know what the focus is. I know the law enforcement side and theory, the fire department side,” he said. “I’ve worked with them, dispatching for them in college and but I’ve never put on bunker gear. But I know what their mission is.”
Stinnett’s parents, the late Jack Stinnett and Judy Stinnett, moved him to Maryville when he was 5, and he grew up here. He graduated Maryville High School in 1986 and then graduated East Tennessee State University in 1991. He majored in criminal justice and political science.
Besides being away from home for 10 years while working with Pigeon Forge Police Department, he had never been far from Maryville. He is married to Kendall Stinnett, who is a nurse at Maryville Surgical Center.
After Stinnett graduated East Tennessee State University, he worked as a probation officer for court services in 1991 and then decided he wanted law enforcement experience. When an opportunity come up in Pigeon Forge, and he went and stayed. “I planned on staying three years and wound up staying 10 years,” he said. “Then an opportunity came up at the Law Enforcement Innovation Center at UT.”
He was working as a homeland security coordinator and did homeland security training across the state. “I planned on staying there. When this came up, I knew I wanted to come home. I have respected these men and women for years and wanted the opportunity to work with them. I know that sound cliché, but it’s the truth,” he said. “Maryville and Blount County hold a special place in my heart. It’s a wonderful place to grow up.”