NEMSMA Executive of the Year: Tim Hearn, Ft. Smith EMS, Ft. Smith, AR

When Tim Hearn became executive director of Ft. Smith EMS, the service was on the verge of bankruptcy, but within four years he had turned the agency completely around

The service has worked closely with local hospitals on stroke and STEMI care, slashing times to intervention. It’s cut response times and improved 9-1-1 call processing. Educational offerings for providers have been expanded, and work is ongoing to bring an accredited paramedic program to Ft. Smith. With the help of grants, it’s procured resources like a trauma trailer that will serve five counties.

Across the community, Ft. Smith EMS has sought relationships with local nonprofits and health advocates and promoted activities like biking and after-school physical fitness. It distributes food to locals in need. It buys up unsold PTA memberships. That civic spirit reflects in its employees, who have responded to the renaissance with record volunteering of their time and efforts.

“What we invest in our employees, they more than pay back,” Hearn says. “Volunteerism is at an all-time high. Our bike team’s an example of that. It’s completely volunteer-based, and that trailer’s gone every weekend working events. Four years ago you wouldn’t have seen that. I believe it’s because our employees believe in our company now. They feel part of it, they feel ownership, and they know the company’s doing everything it can to take care of them.”

In January 2011 Ft. Smith EMS broke ground on a new 12,500-square-foot home to replace the 2,000-square-foot retired fire station into which it’d previously been crammed. The new digs, occupied that June, include offices, crew quarters, training facilities, records housing, a supply warehouse, and indoor parking for EMS vehicles. By this summer the building was paid off.

There’s no magic formula for rebirth, but for leaders of similar struggling services seeking turnarounds, Hearn has some tips.

“No. 1, and some people chuckle at me, is you need to pray,” he says. “You need to listen to your people, their wants and needs and what they see in the community. As the director, I make sure I’m surrounded by people who can do the job, both in the field and in management. And if you want to be blessed, get involved in community efforts. Get plugged back into your community, and your community plugs into you, and will support you in everything you do.”