Two new members have joined the board of directors of the West Side Community Healthcare District, which oversees operation of West Side Community Ambulance.
George Schmidt, who previously served 10 years on the board before declining to seek re-election, has returned to represent Zone 2 on the board (commonly referred to as the Newman city zone), while retired fire paramedic Ken Helms has joined the board as a Zone 3 representative. That zone encompasses the Stevinson area and a portion of Newman.
Each was appointed after being the only candidate to file for their respective seat. Both are Newman residents.
Schmidt will serve a two-year term.
“There was nobody from Newman (on the board) and I felt that somebody should represent Newman. Nobody else was willing to step up, so I did,” Schmidt told Mattos Newspapers.
He said he believes the ambulance service is “in excellent shape” after bringing management back in-house after several years of hiring outside firms to oversee the operation.
“The level of service has gone up considerably since new management has come in,” Schmidt commented.
Schmidt said his priorities for the district include completing the planned relocation of crew quarters into a building on Hills Ferry Road in Newman, establishing a permanent unit in Santa Nella and looking at options to bring the Santa Nella mobile home park back into the public district.
He also believes that, given the difficulty the healthcare district has had in attracting board candidates, directors may in the future need to look into the possibility of shifting from zone elections to at-large elections.
Helms has extensive background in emergency services medical as a fire paramedic and with a private ambulance company with which he started his career.
He previously was a candidate for board appointment, but that fell through because Helms did not reside in the zone with the board vacancy. He also served on a sub-committee which explored options for staying with contracted management or bringing management back in-house.
He agreed with Schmidt that the ambulance service has experienced a positive turnaround.
As a taxpayer supported, public entity, Helms remarked, the priority is serving the interests of the citizens.
“The big thing for me is making sure that we have good coverage, and that if residents call 911 they get an ambulance here quickly,” Helms said. “I also want our employees to be happy and compensated well. I see both sides of this. I want good service for our community, and I want our medics and EMTs to want to stay (at West Side) and bring others in.”