South County EMS chief to take post with Department of Public Health

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-28-2023 7:57 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — After nearly a decade at the helm and more than 20 years working for the town, South County EMS’ first and only chief will step down from the role at the end of the month.

Zoe Smith, the longtime head of South County EMS, is resigning from her position on June 30, capping off two decades as an EMT and paramedic with Deerfield’s ambulance services.

Smith is accepting a role with the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, which she said is a chance to take the “lived experience and expertise” of her work to the state level and help inform policy decisions. The Office of Emergency Medical Services certifies EMS personnel, licenses ambulance services and regulates EMS throughout Massachusetts.

She has also been an adjunct faculty member of Greenfield Community College’s paramedic program since 2011 — which she will have to resign from — a part-time police officer in Sunderland since 2007 and a deputy team commander with one of Rhode Island’s disaster medical response teams.

“I think it’s an excellent fit for my career progression,” Smith said of the new state-level role that will allow her to leverage her experience, “both as a paramedic and a policy person,” and of “having lived firsthand the regional concerns when it comes to providing emergency medical care in a rural context.”

Part of that experience comes from Smith being named the department head of South County EMS when it was first formed in 2014. She said the regional municipal ambulance model is a unique one and it was a difficult process forming it at points, but the success of the service speaks for itself.

“I knew things really came off the rails when they thought I was their best choice,” Smith joked, adding on a more serious note that the towns were figuring things out as they developed the regional service. “It wasn’t that we didn’t know the answers to the questions we had, we didn’t even know the questions we needed to be asking. … It was both very challenging and very rewarding to build that.”

Beginning her career “straight out of high school,” Smith said she was amazed by the dedication of first responders to their communities.

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“The thing that struck me most and what I’ve been most proud about working at South County EMS is these are the most dedicated and compassionate people I’ve worked with,” Smith said. “It’s really an honor to have been associated with such incredible medical providers that really dedicate themselves to providing for the community and giving a service that is so vitally needed.”

Her management style, she said, is to bring these talented and devoted individuals on board and then let them flourish on their own.

“It’s always been my ethos that it’s important to bring in good people that are experts in their field and then get out of their way,” Smith said.

With Smith’s departure, the South County EMS Board of Oversight will interview Tim Drumgool, on Smith’s recommendation, for an interim chief role while the board and the towns of Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately determine the hiring process for a permanent successor.

As she prepares to leave the department she’s called home for two decades, Smith said it’s a “bittersweet” feeling.

“It’s an exciting move, but it’s kind of tempered by having to leave the greatest bunch of people I’ve ever worked for,” Smith said. “This department is bigger than me, though, and I know they will continue to do amazing work.”

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