The Washington County/Johnson City EMS Board of Directors unanimously voted Tuesday night to make Daniel Wheeley an offer to become the next EMS executive director.
Wheeley, 37, has been with the agency since 1999 and has been serving as interim operations director after former Executive Director Allen Taylor retired in October. Taylor’s retirement moved Brad Gerfin, one of two in-house finalists for the spot, to Taylor’s spot on an interim basis, and that pulled Wheeley up to fill Gerfin’s position.
The two sat side by side at the head of the table throughout a roughly two-hour meeting. The matter of naming Taylor’s replacement was moved from the middle of the agenda to the end, which made the choice a bit of a nail-biter for employees, staff and visitors.
But when that time came, it was Wheeley getting the nod. He was later surrounded by EMS employees, accepting congratulatory hand shakes and pats on the back.
“I’m very humbled by this,” he said as the training room at the new station on Wesley Street began to empty. “Brad is excellent. He’s been a true leader through this transition.”
The recommendation came from the EMS Executive Committee, which is comprised of County Mayor Dan Eldridge, City Manager Pete Peterson Dr. Mark Wilkinson, board chairman and senior partner with Johnson City Emergency Physicians, and Jack Hall, EMS board member.
The salary, which will now be negotiated, was advertised as ranging from “the low $70s and moves up depending on qualifications.” Wheeley, who will be responsible for all EMS operations including administration of 114 full-time employees and a nearly $10 million budget, said he felt a contract could be worked out within a few weeks. Wheeley said he will be negotiating directly with Wilkinson.
“I can assure you, I’ve got 100-percent trust in Dan,” said Gerfin, who has worked with the agency since 1998. “The employees really stepped up and made this process easy.”
Both Eldridge and Peterson thanked Gerfin for doing a good job, and both also said either man would have had their trust to run the service.
“I think it was really critical to make such a broad a search as possible,” Peterson said. “The two internal candidates are quality candidates and quite capable of running an organization like this. I think that’s a testament to the quality of personnel we have.”
Wheeley, from Jonesborough, has worked as a paramedic and shift captain. He has directly supervised shift lieutenants, sergeants and staff while managing EMS resources. He also has been directly responsible for day-to-day field operations and has worked closely with the Board of Directors. He has served in numerous leadership roles, including Dive Team Leader, Search and Rescue Team Leader and Washington County Rescue Services captain for 12 years.
He also has been responsible for fundraising, budget preparation and management and directing the operations of the volunteer division. Wheeley also owns Specialty Rescue Training in Jonesborough, and he said he does plan to continue to operate that business, which provides emergency services training to various agencies.
Two of the four finalists were out-of-state: Sims of Spring, Texas, who is the EMS director for the Montgomery County (Texas) County Hospital District, and Mark English of Harrison, Pa., a paramedic and rescue specialist.
Their names were never mentioned, but Pat Hardy, the state’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service municipal management consultant, told board members and EMS employees that the search was thorough. Hardy said he asked executive committee members “how far it wanted to cast its net.”
Judging by the breadth of the search, they cast the net pretty far. The position was advertised in the Johnson City Press, Knoxville News Sentinel, The Tennessean and on nine websites, including EMS World, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
“We received 60 resumes, and there was another 122 website matches, though only three of those ended up in the 60,” Hardy said. “I worked with (Johnson City) Human Resources Director Kevin Bratton. We made a ‘yes’ and a ‘maybe’ pile. This search basically took two months. They normally take at least four months.”