Our Staff

The Staff

Linn County EMA is the largest county emergency management agency in Iowa. Our five full-time employees have diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills that support our mission to protect the life and property of our residents.


Steve O'Konek
Steve M. O’Konek
EMA Coordinator
Steve O’Konek joined the Linn County Emergency Management Agency in February 2018 where he serves as the Emergency Management Coordinator. Steve grew up and worked in a suburban Minneapolis, Minnesota city and served as a community service officer in his home town while working his way through college.  He joined the Cedar Rapids Police Department in 1985 and began work as a patrol officer.  Steve served in a variety of assignments with CRPD including patrol, investigations and administrative operations.  He served as a police commander during the 2008 flood and helped staff the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during that time.  O’Konek has served on the Iowa All-Hazards Incident Management Team (IMT) since 2009 and has been an Operations Chief, Deputy Incident Commander the Red Team Type 3 Incident Commander since 2015.  He was also a two-time finalist for the position of Chief of Police for the City of Cedar Rapids.

He has been involved in a variety of projects that enhanced and enriched public safety. While at CRPD he was involved in helping to develop the Safe CR program and Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems.  He worked with two other commanders in 1999 to develop school emergency plans before these types of incidents began to grow and become more prevalent.  He was involved in special event planning for the city, as well.

He was an Incident Commander for the City of Cedar Rapids during RAGBRAI in 2012 and the 2016 flood.

Steve served in the U.S. Army National Guard for 22 years, beginning as an enlisted soldier and eventually retiring at the rank of Major.  He is a graduate of the Senior Management Institute for Police, through Boston University and a graduate of the FBI National Academy.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Administration, with honors from Upper Iowa University and an Associate of Arts degree in Law Enforcement from North Hennepin College in Minnesota.

Steve has many years of experience working with Linn County EMA and staffing the EOC.  He also has considerable experience with emergency response preparedness for the Duane Arnold Energy Center (DAEC), Iowa’s only nuclear power facility, and has staffed the EOC during DAEC drills for many years.  As an IMT Incident Commander, he has had the opportunity to respond to and coordinate many different types of emergency situations, both planned and unplanned, and has worked cooperatively with several emergency management agencies.  O’Konek has excellent knowledge of emergency and disaster response operations on many levels.

Steve has been married to his wife Marita for almost 30 years and has two grown children who also reside in the area.  He enjoys biking, golf, hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities.  He has two golden doodles and enjoys working and playing with them.  He is a lifelong Minnesota Viking, Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Wild fan.

Steve is really anxious to get out and meet members of the community and begin the work of emergency management. “I am excited to work with such a strong team.  People should know that we are their partners and always willing to respond and lend aid when needed”.


Brad Ransford
Emergency Management Specialist – Logistics & Training Officer
Brad Ransford joined the Linn County Emergency Management Agency in November 2016 where he serves as the Emergency Management Specialist – Logistics & Training Officer. He has volunteers with the Robins Fire Department for the past 20 years, where he serves as Assistant Fire Chief; the Hiawatha Fire Department for the past 13 years, where he serves as a Captain; and the Linn County Regional Hazmat team for the past 19 years, where he serves as a Captain.  Brad received a Fire Science Management Certificate and an Entry Level Firefighter Certificate from Kirkwood Community College. Brad is an also an Iowa Certified Emergency Management Coordinator, he is state certified as a Firefighter 1 & 2, Fire Instructor 1, Fire Officer 1 & 2, Fire Inspector 1, and Driver Operator – Pumper and holds numerous certificates in Hazmat, WMD, emergency management, Special Operations and Incident Command. Brad is State certified as an EMT.


Dawn Nelson
Administrative Assistant
Dawn Nelson joined the Linn County Emergency Management Agency in December 2003 where he serves as the Administrative Assistant. She previously worked in law enforcement and emergency services for eight years and in the financial services field for four years.  She has worked with FEMA on securing public assistance following two major flood events in 1999 before joining the agency. She has been the Secretary for the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) since 2003. Dawn attended Kirkwood Community College and was in the Business Administration program.  She is certified as a trainer for the Community Emergency Response Team program, the National Incident Management System, and she is an Iowa Certified Emergency Management Coordinator.



Kevin Esmail
Emergency Management Specialist – Plans & Exercise Officer
Kevin Esmail joined the Linn County Emergency Management Agency in January 2015 where he serves as the Emergency Management Specialist – Plans and Exercise Officer. He comes to us from Illinois where he received a bachelor’s degree in Emergency Management and Fire Service Administration at Western Illinois University. Prior to working in Emergency Management, Kevin served 8 years as a Hospital Corpsman Second Class with Second Battalion Twenty-Fourth Marine Regiment.


Tom Ulrich
Emergency Management Specialist – Operations & Readiness Officer
Tom Ulrich joined the Linn County Emergency Management Agency in April 1995 where he serves as the Emergency Management Specialist – Operations and Readiness Officer. He previously worked as a Law Enforcement Officer and Police Chief. Tom is also retired from the Volunteer Fire and Emergency Medical Service after twenty seven years obtaining the ranks of Captain and Assistant Chief.  Tom has been a member of the Linn County Regional Hazardous Materials Response Team since 1990 and has been the Team’s Chief since 1998.  Tom is the Linn County Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordinator and was the Chairperson of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) from 2006 to 2010. Tom received his Associates Degree in Law Enforcement from Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids. He also is a graduate of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) and is a Certified Iowa Emergency Medical Technician, Hazardous Materials Technician, an Amateur Radio Operator (KD0LMD), and an Iowa Certified Emergency Management Coordinator.

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