Retiring Kingfisher County Emergency Manager Steve Loftis tells All About Kingfisher his story. 

Steve Loftis:  A Man Deserving of Recognition for a Job Well-Done

By Sara Jane Richter

Born and bred in Kingfisher County, Steve Loftis chose to contribute to his community his entire professional career, and now, he’s about to retire from his position as Kingfisher County Emergency Manager.  He believes that the change will challenge him, but he’s ready to move on in life.  However, he gets a little misty-eyed when he thinks about it too long.

Responding to an advertisement in 2000, Steve applied for the Kingfisher County position.  He didn’t think that he had a chance to secure the job as he admits that he had little experience in such a field.  However, that fact helped his getting hired, for knowledge regarding the position came quickly via on-the-job experience and training.  Actually, training never stopped.  

There’s always something to learn, new relationships to curry, new emergencies to handle, and meetings to attend.  Initially, his office door said it opened to the Office of Civil Defense and Emergency Resources Management, but the state legislature changed that title to a much more manageable and succinct “Emergency Manager” in 2003.

The role of an emergency manager is simple:  respond to disasters in the community/county with the best approach, organization, and resources—human and goods—available.  Creativity helps in dealing with disasters which are never the same thing twice in a lifetime.  In addition, state-wide networking is vital to Loftis’ position.  Communication is key as is prompt and thorough action to save lives and property and restore normalcy as soon as possible.

Emergencies come in the guise of natural disasters, such as fires, tornados, and ice storms, or man-made disasters like oil leaks or chemical releases.  Every day of his career has been filled with new challenges, learning opportunities, and welcome successes.  He found himself working with a host of individuals in many fields:  geologists, first responders, meteorologists, engineers, chemists, local farmers and citizens, and water management experts.  

His life was never quite his own as his job came first; the protection of life, limb, and property in Kingfisher County was his primary responsibility at all costs.  He never resented that fact.

Upon his hiring, his employers assured him that he’d have to deal with only weather events and floods, but Loftis’ career was not limited to only these two types of emergencies.  He saw action in many dangerous winter events, structure fires, rescues, accidents, social disasters, and oil field-related emergencies.  

His first emergency came during the December 2001 ice storm that crippled much of Oklahoma.  One of his latest disaster responses came with the Covid epidemic in 2020. One role he assumed during the pandemic involved transferring supplies to towns in northwest Oklahoma.  He transferred state-provided personal protective equipment (masks, hazmat suits, cleaning supplies, etc.) to nursing homes, police headquarters, doctors’ offices, and schools from Oklahoma City to Woodward weekly. 

He is familiar with northwest Oklahoma as he has served on the Oklahoma Emergency Management Board of Directors for twelve years.  This board is responsible for the EM offices in eighteen counties in northwest Oklahoma.  Emergency managers must know what each other is doing and facing as one never knows when another EM will face the same difficult situation.  They attend monthly meetings to learn cutting-edge information, meet new employees, learn about disaster abatement techniques, and understand state and federal policy changes.  Sometimes, emergency managers find it difficult to get the state to respond in a timely, safe manner, so developing a familiar network of like-minded individuals is key to success.  EM’s share information, supplies, histories, and resources willingly.

Loftis never took the position to be a hero and be lauded for his quick thinking and solid solutions to emergencies.  He only wanted to help people when he took the job, and that has remained his main goal.  He has wanted to help people in need his whole life long, and this position certainly allowed him to make many positive contributions to individuals, families, businesses, communities, and the state.  He has not regretted one day and has lived a rather exciting life, wearing many hats in one day and traveling many miles to accomplish his purpose.  

With retirement nearing, Steve has one hope:  that he is remembered for his love of helping people and teaching people how to respond to and avoid disasters.  His motto easily has become:  Stay prepared.  He wants all of his support team and fellow EMs to know that he has appreciated their help and insight to accomplish his responsibilities.  Volunteers proved mighty important during his career, for he knew that he could not singlehandedly accomplish the job.  It does take a village.  

The days of fielding unexpected disasters will soon end.  Steve may find it difficult to acclimate to retirement, but he wants to fill his time with good books and good documentaries.  In addition, he loves to work in the yard and express himself with his green thumb.  He will probably feel like the proverbial retired fire horse and want to be part of the action the next time there’s bad news in the weather forecast, but he relies on the fact that someone will assume his position with skills and the desire to help 

Kingfisher County with the same fervor that he has felt for the past 24 years.  Thank you for your service, Mr. Loftis.  You’re appreciated for your stellar job, quick thinking, and calm demeanor.