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Catawba Valley community, family share support of Newton-native FEMA director

Hickory Daily Record - 9/12/2017

NEWTON ? While community members from across the area contributed to hurricane relief efforts, one man in particular is taking a prominent role in the response.

Less than three months into his tenure as the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Newton-native Brock Long has been forced to contend with the effects of two major hurricanes in a short period of time.

For area residents who have known Brock Long from his time as a student at Newton-Conover High School and before, there is a great sense of pride in his ability to meet the challenges of the job.

John Hewins, who was Brock Long's tennis coach in high school and basketball coach in middle school, said in a phone interview that Brock Long was a standout tennis player who was "always in the right place at the right time" and was "always thinking ahead."

"No foolishiness; just did what he was supposed to do," Hewins said.

Brock Long qualified for the state tournament his senior year, he added.

Jerry Willard, who was Brock Long's social studies teacher in high school, described him in a phone interview as a "highly self-driven" person who "did a good job of really hiding his passions."

"He wanted to be the typical Newton-Conover Red Devils kid, and so Brock was really good at hiding his passions and what he really cared about because he was such a good kid that he did not want to seem pretentious," Willard said.

"But I always knew Brock had this drive in him that he was going to be successful."

Hewins said he also observed in Brock Long an unwillingness to discuss his accomplishments.

"And even in high school when he was a great tennis player, you would never have known it," Hewins said. "I mean, he never talked about it. You know, you would never know that he was a good tennis player or a good student."

Brock Long attended Appalachian State University and graduated with a degree in criminal justice and a Master of Public Administration.

From a young age, Brock Long has been a "people person," and he believes being able to help others is at least part of what attracts Brock Long to emergency management, Brock Long's father William Long said in a phone interview.

"He loves to meet people, but I think he feels like he is doing something personally to help people," William Long said.

After graduating from ASU, Brock Long worked in the field of school safety in Georgia and later as a hurricane manager for FEMA.

At one point in the late 1990s, Brock Long returned to Newton-Conover to give a presentation to faculty on school violence, Willard said.

"All of us said, 'Wow, this is Brock Long; this is little Brock Long,'" Willard said. "So that was very impressive just to see him at that early age getting into his passion."

During the past two decades, Brock Long has held both private and public sector emergency management positions and has handled responses to many major disasters of the last decade.

"I mean it just all came in to him, and he's had, as he told one time when he was lecturing at Charlotte, he's had the Forrest Gump career of emergency management," William Long said.

In his role as director of Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long handled the responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the H1N1 flu.

Prior to becoming FEMA director, Brock Long was the executive vice president at the firm Hagerty Consulting.

William Long said he and his wife Kay are proud their son has risen to the top of his profession, but there are some "mixed emotions" because of the way his job keeps him in Washington and away from home.

"But for him, I think it's a great opportunity," William Long said.

William Long said he has communicated with Brock Long some during the last few weeks, but communication has been difficult because of how busy Brock Long stays.

They did talk for about half an hour Sunday, William Long said.

"He said that, you know, it's tiring, but he's doing fine," William Long said. "We think he's doing a good job, and we're keeping him in our prayers, and his family."

Hewins said he last saw Brock Long on a tennis court within the last year or so.

Though they spoke, Brock Long did not talk about his profession, Hewins said.

Both Willard and Hewins said they believed Long was highly capable of succeeding in his new job.

"Everybody's in good hands," Hewins said. "You watch; he'll do what needs to be done."

 
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