What started out as a normal day at the office quickly turned into an opportunity a whirlwind of a day for Denison’s Finance Director Renee’ Waggoner, who was in charge of Denison when a fire broke out on Main Street last week.
Waggoner has been serving in the role of finance director since 2011. Since that time she has stepped into the temporary position of acting city manager on a number of occasions. None of them were anything like what she walked into on Oct. 9.
That day she was sitting in her officer when she overheard sirens downstairs and an employee shout from Main Street. Waggoner quickly rushed into action as she made her way down the stairs of City Hall at 300 West Main Street. To her surprise, across the street, one of the businesses in the city’s famed historic downtown district was on fire.
Waggoner said she sprang into action immediately sending messages to City Manager Jud Rex and Mayor Janet Gott who were both in San Antonio receiving an award for the city.
“My role, I felt, was for support and encouragement, to answer the call and address the needs of staff as we addressed the issue at hand,” Waggoner said. “I wanted to make sure (Denison) PD was on task or see if the fire department needed anything. It really was a great team effort.”
Waggoner made sure she was constantly sending updates, with photos to Rex and Gott at the conference.
“I know it was difficult for them to being so far away at a time like this,” Waggoner said. “We just went in and took care of business. It wasn’t all me. It wasn’t one single person. It took a team effort to take care of business, to make sure everyone had what they needed.”
She arrived to work in the morning as usual but remained in the office until after 11 p.m., wanting to make sure there wasn’t anything else she could do before leaving. By that time, Rex and arrived to resume his duties as city manager.
“I am very proud of how everyone responded that day and the days since,” Waggoner said. “I am confident that support will not waiver as we move into the future.”
Several members of the city council were on scene along with business owners who all watched in horror as the heart of Denison was pierced with a blazing fire that shook the entire historic district. Gott said on her return, it was the city’s worst nightmare.
“We shifted gears,” Waggoner said. “We handle things as they come at us each day. This was a different day, you have to shift from your day-to-day duties to something different. It was all we can do to help, see where they need us. It was such a team effort it makes you super proud. Not only of our staff, but our residents and business owners from around the city.”
She said it was amazing nobody was hurt in the ordeal. Six people lost their homes; three businesses were upended; and two buildings were either completely or a near complete lost.
“After I left that was when I got home and was able to reflect on the events of the day,” Waggoner said. “It was emotionally and physically draining for everyone involved. Despite all the devastation, I know we will over come. I know we are having daily meetings to see how we will move forward. It has changed the day-to-day events as we are trying to address recovery and cleanup. I want to ensure the safety of anyone who visits Main Street while we maintain the integrity of our downtown as we move forward: #DenisonForward.”
Waggoner has continued to be involved in the recovery efforts. She addressed the City Council on Monday asking the council to authorize up to $100,000 from the general fund to be allocated to the recovery efforts.
Reporter Richard A. Todd can be reached by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter @RichardAToddHD.