The phrase ‘how can I help’ is how first responders across Ellis County remember the way Stephanie Parker served the community. Parker stepped into the role as the county’s emergency management coordinator in April 2015. She passed away Thursday after a battle with leukemia.
In her role as the emergency management coordinator, Parker coordinated and supervised emergency and homeland security operations during natural or man-made emergencies and disasters.
She was tasked with developing emergency operations plans, identifying resource needs, improving efficiency and responsiveness, and ensuring community preparedness.
Ellis County Judge Carol Bush stated Parker’s passion and dedication to public service showed right away during their first meeting.
“When I interviewed Stephanie for the EMC position, I could see the passion that she had for the job. She came highly recommended from Johnson County and the head of the Emergency Preparedness Department at North Central Texas Council of Governments. Both basically said that I would be crazy not to hire her. They were so right," Bush said. “That same enthusiasm that punctuated every answer during her interview manifested itself in the way she performed her job — which wasn’t actually a job to her, but a calling.”
Bush added that Parker made it her goal to help people and accomplished that through the relationships she built along the way. She said Parker had a servant’s heart and did not take her responsibly lightly.
“Stephanie took our Emergency Management Office to a whole new level of performance and respect, and she impacted many lives in the process. Because of her, our community is better prepared and safer. That is her legacy to Ellis County,” Bush explained. “Those of us that worked with her can vouch that Stephanie was never self-serving nor did she want to be at the center of attention. She was happy remaining in the background, making things work and making things better."
Bush added that she has the utmost respect for Parker, professionally and personally, and was honored to have worked with her.
Mike McCorkle, Ellis County Constable Precinct 3, stated Parker put the needs of others first on a daily basis. He noted Parker leaves a lasting legacy of service.
“She had a huge impact. You are talking about someone who knew the ins and outs of emergency management like nobody I had ever seen before,” McCorkle said. “When I came into office back in the summertime, she was a huge help to our office in getting things started with the assets that we needed.”
McCorkle stated Parker had a tremendous drive for her job that matched the heart she had for the people she served. He shared the passion she brought to work was noticeable.
“She was very personal, approachable and selfless. I would say that she would do anything for anybody. You saw that not only in her personality but you saw that in her work,” McCorkle explained. “If you would ask her something, her response would be ‘however we can help you,’ ‘whatever you would need,’ or ‘I would love to be a part of that.’”
McCorkle also recalled the success of the annual emergency preparedness fair orchestrated by Parker. The event introduces residents to area first responders, provides them with information about what to do in an emergency, and builds community.
Midlothian City Councilman Joe Frizzell shared McCorkle’s feelings about Parker and her dedication to the people that she served daily. Frizzell first met Parker when they worked on the Collaborative Adaptive Sensing of Atmosphere Radar project, which is one of the CASA radar stations is at the Midlothian Police Department.
“I always found Stephanie to be the constant professional. She was dedicated to Ellis County in ensuring the health and safety of the residents,” Frizzell said. “I worked with her not only on the CASA project but also through the Ellis County Amateur Radio Club and our Ellis County Sky Warn storm spotters. She was always eager to be involved with anything that would impact health and safety with the residents of Ellis County.”
Fire Chief Jake Escamilla, of the Emergency Service District 6 Volunteer Fire Department, stated Parker was a person who could be counted on at any time and regardless of the hour.
“Whenever we were on the job, she was always there when we needed her,” Escamilla shared. “Any time that we would need something to do our jobs better she was the one to contact. She always knew where to get the resources and the equipment.”
Escamilla added that if an emergency would happen, he wanted someone like Parker who would step in and help during those trying moments. He said Parker was “a person that you needed on your team.”
Marcus Brown, Waxahachie Emergency Management Coordinator, echoed Escamilla’s thoughts about Parker’s service. He noted Parker not only brought expertise and knowledge to the table but cared deeply for the community.
“She was a tireless worker, and she brought a lot of energy to Ellis County and the position. She demonstrated that she cared for people and helping people. That was demonstrated in her work ethic,” Brown said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and of course Ellis County. We stand here committed to helping them through this time and continuing our partnership with them as they and we move forward.”
In the wake of Parker’s passing, Ellis County Fire Marshal Tim Birdwell will serve as the interim emergency management coordination unit further notice.
Parker’s life will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Friday at the J.E. Keever Mortuary Chapel. The chapel is at 408 N. Dallas Street in Ennis. The family asks that attendees wear bright colors to commemorate Parker’s exuberant disposition. In lieu of flowers, donations in her name may be made to any local fire department.