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SEMA Director Ron Walker retiring after 41 years with Public Safety

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After more than 40 years of service with the Missouri Department of Public Safety (DPS), State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) Director Ron Walker will retire on April 1. 

“At both SEMA and the Highway Patrol, Ron Walker has provided strong leadership as Missouri has faced emergencies and critical events for four decades,” Gov. Mike Parson said in a statement. “He has been a model public servant throughout his career, and we greatly appreciate his dedication to building positive relationships, improving operations, and serving the people of Missouri over the past 42 years.” 

Walker has worked for the state of Missouri for about 42 years, following in his father’s footsteps by getting his start with the State Highway Patrol. For 35 years, Walker rose through the ranks of the state patrol — from working assignments near Truman Lake to eventually becoming the assistant commander for the Field Operations Bureau in Jefferson City. 

Walker technically retired in 2013 but missed being a part of a team. A year later, he was appointed to lead SEMA for the first time under the Nixon administration. 

Leadership changes meant Walker became the deputy director of SEMA for a brief time in 2017 before DPS Director Sandy Karsten again moved him to the helm in 2018. 

“Ron Walker represents the highest ideals of public service and has dedicated his career to making the citizens of Missouri safer and our communities more resilient,” Karsten said. “At SEMA, Ron has led the state’s response and recovery operations to major flooding and tornado disasters, built stronger relationships with our local, federal, faith-based, and volunteer response partners, and innovated in the use of technology and how SEMA responds to and prepares for disasters.”  

SEMA, housed under DPS, is tasked with preparing for, responding to, and recovering from all emergencies — from natural disasters to potential cybersecurity events to other potential catastrophes. But Walker says the job is about supporting and ensuring local communities are equipped to handle those emergencies. 

“I wasn’t really sure about it because I was not an emergency management practitioner, but in reality, emergency management is about problem solving,” Walker previously told The Missouri Times about his decision to first join SEMA. “It’s problem solving at real high intensity times. You can work on scenarios in advance that would help you, but it’s really hard to create every challenge you’re going to get in a real life event — whether it’s a major flood event, tornado, ice storm.”

Walker is nearly a lifelong resident of Jefferson City. He was born in Waynesville and moved to the capital city at a young age. Walker also served as an officer with the Jefferson City Police Department from 1977 to 1978. He resides in Taos, about eight miles southeast of Jefferson City with his family. 

“We love our life here. The Midwest is great with great people. I can’t imagine living anywhere else,” he said. 

SEMA Deputy Director James Remillard has been named acting director as Walker prepares to leave the department. 

Read more about Walker’s life of service here.