THOMASVILLE — A longtime Thomas County government employee will head a new agency that merges county fire/rescue and emergency medical services operations.
Effective Tuesday, Derrick Ogletree became head of Thomas County Emergency Services.
County Manager Mike Stephenson said fire/rescue and the emergency medical service (EMS) had reached a point where more coordination between the two agencies was needed.
Some employees of the two agencies are cross-trained as fighters and emergency medical technicians and paramedics. Cross-training of employees will continue, Stephenson said.
The county wants to ensure continued, high-quality service, Stephenson said, adding that by cross-training, the number of positions can be reduced gradually.
"This will be a process of attrition. It is a three-year process. It all hinges on the number of cross-trained positions we have," he said.
Ogletree was hired by Thomas County in October 1986 as an emergency medical technician. He was promoted to captain in November 1996 and to co-director in January 2008.
Ogletree was appointed geographic information system manager in August 2010, and developed the county's first fully-integrated geographic information system. His job title was changed to information systems manager in 2017, when 911 addressing was added to his job duties.
Ogletree, whose annual salary in the new position is $75,000, is a graduate of Thomas County Central High School and Valdosta Technical College.
"It is an honor to be appointed to this position, and I am excited about returning to the emergency services setting," Ogletree said. "I maintained my paramedic license over the past nine years while setting up the county’s geographic information system. EMS and fire have changed over the years as we adapted to the needs of our citizens. As we develop dual missions for our employees, it will only enhance the already excellent services these departments provide to Thomas County."
Said Stephenson, "The blending of missions between the emergency medical service and the fire department requires a high degree of planning and coordination. Derrick has all the knowledge, skills and ability necessary to bring it about. We expect to move forward patiently, but deliberately, with Derrick's leadership.”
Chris Jones, previously fire/rescue chief, will serve as assistant director of fire operations and emergency management director.
"As far as day-to-day operations, everything will stay the same," Jones said.
Ogletree "is not a stranger" to county government or to the department heads assigned to him, Jones added.
Tim Coram, formerly EMS director, will become assistant director of EMS operations.
Coram said he has worked with Ogletree for a long time.
"I see no problems," he said.
Jones' and Coram's annual salaries will remain at $72,000.
Martin Smith, James Mann and Robbie Hopkins will remain in their positions as team commanders. Bryant Ring, Lavon Gassett and Clint Chastain will remain as team captains.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820