Greg Rowe, left, is taking over as the director of Dougherty County Emergency Medical Services. Bobby Tripp, right, is retiring after heading the department for 30 years.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Fresh out of college, Greg Rowe was slinging boxes for a local parcel delivery service when he realized that his life was lacking something.
When a friend convinced him to join the Albany Fire Department, he started down a road that would eventually end up with his name emblazoned over the desk of the director of Dougherty County Emergency Management Services.
"I kind of got exposed to the EMS side of it through the fire training and realized that's where I wanted to go," Rowe said.
The Albany High graduate spent the next 19 years on the front lines of emergency calls, responding to medical and trauma calls, saving lives where he could and consoling those where he couldn't.
"We always try to save lives, but sometimes there's nothing you can do for the patient," Rowe said. "But even in those times, I tell our guys that there is still something you can do for the family or the ones who are grieving. You can make an impact in their lives."
EMS isn't all about the heroic rescues portrayed on TV or in Hollywood. In Dougherty County, the majority of calls come in for things like falls, chest pain and just general sickness.
"That's what really makes this a fulfilling job for me," Rowe said. "The heroic stuff is great, but when you arrive on the scene and have a kid that's been injured in a fall or something and you're able to make them smile or get their mind off of it for just a second. That's a good day."
It took Rowe 19 years to get his first supervisory promotion and until this year to get an opportunity to sit in the big chair, largely because of low attrition rates.
"Back then, I guess people were more career-oriented. They got in a good job and they stayed there forever, so you had to wait for a position to open up," Rowe said.
Rowe said he never had aspirations, even as recently as five or six years ago, to be the director.
"If you would've come to me and said that I would end up being the director, I would've laughed at you," he said. "But I'm honored and privileged to have been given the opportunity."
Rowe is replacing outgoing Director Bobby Tripp, who is retiring after 40 years on the job.
Tripp had high praise for Rowe, saying this week that he can walk away from the job feeling safe for the future of the department with Rowe at the helm.
"There's a lot of security in that," Tripp said. "I can leave here without any worries ... feeling secure, because I know I'm leaving it in some very capable hands. You can't always say that."
Rowe said he's one of Tripp's biggest fans, saying that while he may put his personal stamp on the department, very little will change from the way Tripp ran things under his watch.
"One of the best compliments someone can give me six months to a year from now is for them to say that they can't see any major changes," Rowe said. "We having something good here. Something that Bobby spent his career building. We're not going to reinvent the wheel when it's rolling along fine."