As in any crisis, political leaders are often thrust into roles outside their ordinary areas of expertise. Evelyn R. Hart is no different.
By vocation, Hart is a Newport Beach councilwoman and an environmentalist. But as the oil slick approached the hitherto pristine shores of her community, she found that she quickly had to become an expert in a wide range of areas.
On Thursday, a day after the tanker American Trader began spewing oil from its punctured hull, Hart became an expert in meteorology.
"On Thursday afternoon at 4:30, the wind was blowing at 15 knots from south to north, meaning that the oil slick had a good possibility of hitting our shore," she said. "When it started coming to our shore at 20 knots, we got a little bit nervous."
When the slick did come ashore, Hart found herself in yet another role--emergency management and damage control.
"At 9:30 on Thursday night, we (herself, the mayor and other council members) went out in a jeep and checked the beach--that was our first indication oil was coming in," Hart said. "Then yesterday (Friday), I was up in the police helicopter so I could get an overview of what was going on. That indicated to me that some oil was still coming out of the tanker.
"Everything was on-line as soon as we heard Thursday," she added. "Our emergency preparedness team has got to be complimented. They were in place and ready to go."
By next week, Hart will be back to her "real" job as a councilwoman--and that, she noted, could be the most important job of all. As media and public interest wanes, she said, local politicians must keep the heat on to ensure that safeguards are enacted to prevent a similar incident in the future.
"We are so lucky that oil has not totally wrecked our shore for 30 years," Hart said. "The important thing is to move ahead with our legislation."