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Three men in the running to be next director of county ambulance service

Dec 6, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Three candidates for the open Fremont County Ambulance director position were interviewed Tuesday by the Fremont County Commission. The county board has not decided which person to hire.

The position has been open since the previous director resigned in July.

Mark Meyer, of Casper, was the first person interviewed. Until Oct. 1, he was in charge of Wyoming Medical Center's ambulance service and began working in emergency medical services as a volunteer 20 years ago.

"My overall plan would be to look out for the growth and the overall success (Fremont County Ambulance) has had," Meyer said.

Second up was Brand Stewart, of Sheridan. Originally from Utah, he has worked in EMS for 33 years, starting as a paramedic, spending time leading EMS organizations and is now an EMS instructor.

"I think it would be an absolute privilege to be a part of what I consider a great system," Stewart said. "At the same time I see there are some challenges that can be overcome, and I would be excited to be a part of that process."

Joseph Zillmer, of Amarillo, Texas was the final candidate. He owns and operates a medical transportation consulting company and over several decades has worked as a paramedic, as an EMS instructor and in leadership roles in emergency medical organizations.

"I would hope if I could have a long-term relationship with Fremont County," Zillmer said, "we would have one of the best, if not the best, services in Wyoming, where we would have good treatment outcomes, where the community is proud of what we do, and where we're self-sustaining as much as possible."

Department's challenges

Regardless who gets the job, the new director will contend with some serious challenges. First, Fremont County's ambulance department is planning to operate at a loss, to the tune of $600,000 a year, until its $1.6 million reserve is drained.

Officials also report fewer and fewer people volunteer with emergency medical services every year, and the department is changing to had more full-time, paid positions.

Through their telephone interviews, commissioners asked how each candidate would address those issues.

Meyer said he would try to engage volunteers more by providing education and stipends, working with their schedules, and treating volunteers as a professional group. He also has experience with volunteers, having been one, but did not oversee volunteers at his last position.

Stewart said he would start programs to recognize volunteers, such as giving certificates and having a "volunteer of the quarter" award.

"I've had a lot of success with a little recognition ceremony," he said.

Stewart also began his EMS career as a volunteer.

Zillmer worked with rural ambulance services that relied on volunteers before, he said. He thought it was important to treat volunteers as professionals on equal footing with paid staff. He also said recognition was important.

"I think every year there ought to be a banquet for the volunteers separate from the professionals," he said.

To address financial issues, Meyer would have employees engage in cheaper online training, he said. He would also work with hospitals to secure work transporting patients, which are operations that bring in revenue, Meyer said.

The availability of grants for EMS is decreasing, Stewart said. He vowed to seek private donations from oil and gas producers and mining companies Stewart said.

He also mentioned experience seeking donations from helping one community restart its ambulance service through a fundraising effort.

Most people who need emergency services cannot pay for them, Zillmer said, so aggressively pursuing claims with all people who can pay is important.

"A director's job is to seek every one of those nuances available," he said.

Zillmer also recommended performing patient transfers and standbys at events because those services generate income.

Commissioners discussed the candidates in executive session after the interviews but will make a hiring decision at a later date.

County ambulance director candidates

MARK MEYER

Casper

Former director of

Wyoming Medical Center ambulance service

BRAND STEWART

Sheridan

EMS instructor, paramedic

JOSEPH ZILLMER

Amarillo, Texas

Medical transportation

consultant, paramedic

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Fremont County Commission