John Brenenstuhl is the new director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency. Ashley Allen/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA —For John Brenenstuhl, the biggest payoff in emergency management is being able to help small communities secure funding for their needs.

“One of the things I have enjoyed is trying to help small communities that didn’t have a lot of money being able to navigate to find funding for different projects that they would never have money for,” Brenenstuhl said.

Brenenstuhl, 44, is the new director of the Kennebec County Emergency Management Agency, which provides resources and technical support to local emergency responders through training and planning emergency preparedness exercises, among other things.

He has spent his entire career either in the fire or emergency medical services, starting as a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Poestenkill, New York, before moving on to fire departments in Albany, New York, and High Point, North Carolina.

During his career, he has responded to both the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and to the catastrophic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, when the Category 5 Atlantic hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans.

Seeking a change of scenery, in 2018 Brenenstuhl moved to Maine where he had spent summers as a child vacationing with his family. His father had been in the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


When he and his wife moved to the Dover-Foxcroft area, they had a farm and Brenenstuhl, who is a commercial pilot and a certified flight instructor, ran a small flight school.

About a year ago, both he and his wife, Alsina, were hired as emergency planners for the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency to update that county’s EMA plan as required by federal and state governments.

When the director’s job in Kennebec County was advertised, he saw it as a way to advance his career and build more skills.

One of the biggest challenges Brenenstuhl sees is the nature of rural communities that lack full-time dedicated emergency planners.

“You go from a major city to rural areas very quickly,” he said. “What you’re going to plan for in Augusta is completely different from (what you plan for in) China,” he said.

While he started in Kennebec County a month ago, he’s facing the same challenges that all people new to central Maine are facing: finding housing. As soon as he and his wife find a listing, it’s under contract even before they can schedule a viewing, he said.

Even so, he remains focused on the work.

“A lot of people don’t realize emergency management is even here, and what we do,” he said. “There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes planning and preparing for different events. We can’t be prepared for everything, but we try to be prepared for the most likely things. We’re here for all the communities in the county, if they need help with something. We’re here to do what we can to support (them).”

Kennebec County Administrator Scott Ferguson said Brenenstuhl’s salary will be $75,000.

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