EMS chief steps down

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By Jay Cason

The man who for the past four years has served both as Anderson County public safety director and Lawrenceburg's emergency medical services director has resigned from both positions effective Feb. 15.

But Charlie O'Neal will continue to serve Anderson County, as well as all of the state's counties, in his new position. O'Neal has just been named executive director of the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services (KBEMS) with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

"KBEMS is a valuable member of KCTCS - enhancing our mission to provide licensure, certification, and training to first responders," said KCTCS President Michael B. McCall. "I am delighted to welcome Charles O'Neal as the new executive director. His knowledge of Kentucky and his training as a first responder bring valuable expertise to the position."

"O'Neal is an outstanding instructor and has made numerous presentations to business and civic organizations throughout Kentucky," added KCTCS Chancellor Keith Bird.

While expressing delight that one of their own is moving up, several local elected officials also expressed regret that O'Neal is leaving.

"I think he's been one of the greatest assets to the county that we've had," said long time Magistrate John Wayne Conway. "He has done a tremendous job. We're losing the best EMS director we've had, but I know he'll continue to help us in his new job."

"I love it anytime someone can move up the ladder and improve in his profession," said Lawrenceburg Mayor Edwinna Baker, "but I hate to lose him. He has always worked really well with the city."

Despite of the rare opportunity to head an agency with statewide clout, O'Neal said the decision to leave required him to do some serious soul searching before accepting his new position.

"The job I've had here is the second best public sector job in the state," O'Neal said. "I'm leaving for the single best job.

"The uncertainties that we are facing with the county's current financial condition was a factor in my decision. And uncertainties of reimbursement from insurance companies for some of our services were a concern.

"At the same time, the challenges that we face in Anderson County are not unlike those facing other communities. Emergency services are often the first place they look to save money. An ambulance service is one of those things you don't care about until you need it; then you want it right now."

O'Neal, who moved to the county about five years ago, said he plans to continue to reside here and continue to be involved with Anderson County.

"I plan to continue to serve as a deputy coroner and be involved otherwise as time allows," he said. "I start my new position on Feb. 18, and I'm going to work (in Anderson County) up until Feb. 14 or 15. I still have meetings to attend and I've recommended a person to take my place, if not permanently then at least on an interim basis, and will need to work to get him up to speed.

"The people of Anderson County have been good to me and my family. They embraced us and made us feel very much at home. In return, I dedicated myself to making Lawrenceburg and Anderson County one of the safest places in Kentucky to live. I think we've done that."