Originally created 03/19/03

Perdue replaces emergency team leader



ATLANTA - The day before a Bush administration deadline that could lead to war in Iraq, Gov. Sonny Perdue replaced the head of the agency that would respond to a terrorist attack or other disaster in Georgia.

The Tuesday announcement of a new director for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency came as government officials were increasing security details and reviewing emergency plans throughout the state.

Speaking at a civic club luncheon in Atlanta, Mr. Perdue said he had accepted the resignation of Glenn McConnell, who has headed the emergency agency for the past 12 years. Mr. McConnell will be replaced by Mike Sherberger, a former assistant director at the agency.

He most recently worked as senior adviser for homeland security at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The emergency agency coordinates state and local resources in events from severe weather to terrorist attacks.

Mr. Perdue said he had been eyeing Mr. Sherberger for the post for some time. But Mr. McConnell, who like other agency heads had officially offered his resignation to Mr. Perdue in January, said he was surprised by the announcement.

Mr. Perdue downplayed the significance of replacing Mr. McConnell on what could be the eve of war, which observers believe could lead to renewed terrorist strikes in the U.S.

"We just made a decision," Mr. Perdue said after the announcement. "I think (Mr. Sherberger) will be a great director."

The governor said the possibility of war "might have prompted" him to make the move sooner than he would have otherwise.

Mr. Perdue and Mr. Sherberger said security is being tightened at Georgia locations deemed to be possible terrorist targets.

More locations continue to be added to that list, they said. The emergency agency and other state and local officials also are updating their plans for a response in case of an attack, Mr. Sherberger said.

"One of the things we're working on is making sure our response plan is tuned up," he said. "We're making sure everybody understands the game plan."

Mr. Perdue said no specific threats have been received in Georgia.

At Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, security officials said they will begin randomly searching cars, restricting parking and having more police present.