New South County EMS chief starts Feb. 5

Auburn EMS Coordinator Joshua Sparks will join South County EMS as its chief next month.

Auburn EMS Coordinator Joshua Sparks will join South County EMS as its chief next month. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE


Staff Writer

Published: 01-15-2024 9:49 AM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — With the Deerfield Selectboard’s vote Wednesday afternoon and contract signatures delivered Friday, South County EMS will welcome Auburn Fire Department EMS Coordinator Joshua Sparks as its second-ever chief.

Sparks, 48, who has a wide-ranging background in emergency medical services dating back to his first job at 18 years old on an ambulance in 1993, will take over as South County EMS chief on Feb. 5. The department covers Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately.

“My reaction is one of real excitement; I’m really looking forward to working with the South County EMS Board of Oversight and the respective town Boards of Selectmen,” Sparks said Friday morning in a phone interview. “I’m thrilled to begin.”

Sparks will succeed former longtime South County EMS Chief Zoe Smith, who resigned from her role on July 1 to take a job with the state Department of Public Health, after taking on the chief position when the agency was first formed.

Other job experiences prior to his role in Auburn include working as a flight paramedic and as an organ donor coordinator at hospitals around New England.

He was selected after a marathon South County EMS Board of Oversight and Deerfield Selectboard meeting in which he and Deerfield resident and paramedic Laurie McComb were interviewed by the boards. The Board of Oversight split its recommendation, 3-3, while the Selectboard voted 3-0 to begin contract negotiations with Sparks.

The Auburn resident, who intends to move with his wife and two children to the region within the next year, said he was drawn to South County EMS because it is a municipal, third-service agency. He explained this type of town-run service is extremely rare because most municipal EMS agencies are typically run out of the fire department, such as Greenfield or Auburn’s departments.

Additionally, these agencies often promote internally, so seeing a job posting like this is a rare opportunity.

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“Seeing a job posted, for a chief position, for a municipal EMS agency is almost unheard of — I would have felt like a fool not to (apply),” Sparks said. “What a rare jewel to go for, and lo and behold, they offered it to me. … I really am honored by this.”

As he gets set to begin, Sparks said he is having an informal meeting with interim South County EMS Chief and paramedic Tim Drumgool — who told the Board of Oversight when he was appointed in July that he had no interest in taking the permanent position — to better familiarize himself with the department.

“I think that’s going to be important, especially as I’m brand new there,” he said, adding that his first priority as the agency’s boss is to connect with his employees and learn how they go about their work. “Being from out of town, I have a lot of questions. I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Selectboard Chair Carolyn Shores Ness said Sparks’ salary will be $115,000 and she is looking forward to him joining the department, especially in a what is going to be a “tight” budget year. As South County EMS’ fiduciary agent, the Deerfield Selectboard operates as the agency’s hiring authority.

Shores Ness also thanked Drumgool for his “outstanding job of stabilizing our finances” in his interim role.

“We’re so excited about (Sparks) coming and we’re looking toward having him organize us further. … There’s been a really exciting shift and we’re looking forward to the next step,” Shores Ness said. “Having someone on board with his budgeting background is going to be huge.”