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Public safety workers mourn sudden death of N.Y. county emergency services director

Essex County Emergency Services Director Max Thwaits III also served as chief of the Jay VFD and as an EMT for the AuSable Forks Volunteer Ambulance Squad


In a Facebook post the Atlantic Chapter of APCO wrote: “The Board of Officers of the APCO Atlantic Chapter are saddened to report the passing of Max Thwaits of Essex County(NY). Max was a dispatcher for over 10 years, promoted 911 Director in 2019 and Director of Emergency Services in 2021. Please keep his family and coworkers in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Photo/Atlantic Chapter of APCO

Lohr McKinstry
The Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN, N.Y. — Public safety workers and public officials in the tri-county area were mourning the unexpected death Monday of Essex County Emergency Services Director Max Thwaits III.

Thwaits, 40, of AuSable Forks, died of heart failure around 2 a.m. Monday at the University of Vermont Health Network Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh.

He was named Emergency Services director in 2021 when Donald Jaquish retired. Thwaits had also served as chief of the Jay Volunteer Fire Department and as an EMT for the AuSable Forks Volunteer Ambulance Squad since 2000.

He’d worked for Essex County Department of Emergency Services since 2007, first as a 911 dispatcher, then deputy director and 911 coordinator until his promotion to director. He was a U.S. Navy veteran and graduated from AuSable Valley High School and SUNY Empire State College with a bachelor’s degree in emergency management.

Essex County Board of Supervisors Chairman Shaun Gillilland (R- Willsboro) said Thwaits’ death took everyone who knew him by surprise.

“It is so sudden and shocking,” he said. “None of us have had time to process this tremendous loss. It will take time.”


Gillilland said Matthew Watts, who was Thwaits’ deputy, will serve as acting director until further notice.

Watts said Thwaits was a friend and valued co-worker at Emergency Services.

“Our hearts are broken,” Watts said. “Max was dedicated to public safety and serving his community and the entire Essex County. Max had great visions for this office and we will continue to carry out those visions.”


He said Thwaits was on the hiring committee that hired him as the first deputy EMS coordinator in 2019.

“After Max was promoted to director, he hired me as the deputy director to which he taught me a lot in a short amount of time,” Watts said. “One thing I joked about every day was his big dry-erase board with different goals. He was always adding something and I told him for Christmas I was going to buy him a pocket-sized board so he couldn’t write as much.”

Thwaits was well-respected by everyone he worked with, Watts said.

“He built a great office staff along with a great staff of volunteer investigators and coordinators,” Watts said. “Max was the leader of our family here, and he will forever be in our hearts.”


Former Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish participated in hiring Thwaits at the county and worked with him for many years.

“He was only 40 years old,” Jaquish said. “He’ll be hard to replace. It was totally unexpected. Max was a good guy. It’s a terrible loss.”

He said Thwaits had decades of service based on helping others, especially in times of emergencies and disasters.

“He spent his whole life in the fire and emergency medical service,” Jaquish said. “He was really knowledgeable on the CAD ( Computer Aided Dispatch) system and radio communications for the 911 center. Max was a good man to have around.”


Thwaits was also the county fire coordinator and a fire investigator.

A moment of silence was held for Thwaits Monday morning at the Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Old County Courthouse in Elizabethtown.

Services for Thwaits were incomplete and will be announced later.


(c)2022 the Press-Republican

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