Greg Rowe has been in emergency services for 32 years and director of EMS since March, 2012. He got the desire for helping people medically during an early stint with the fire department when he fell in love with first aid. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
Growing up in Albany, Greg Rowe’s first job was at the old Elks Club when he was 14 years old. While he didn’t know it then, the experience was an early introduction to fiscal responsibility, he said, showing him the value of a dollar. Since 2012 Rowe has served as director of Dougherty County Emergency Management Services, and together with his penchant for basic medical care, his budgeting abilities have become a handy asset.
Rowe’s a hands-on kind of boss, working shoulder to shoulder with his crews, which number some 68 paramedics and 11 emergency medical technicians, plus an administrative secretary and an administrative assistant.
He enjoys working out each morning, starting off with a two-mile walk with his wife and dog. Whenever he can manage it, he scuba dives or rides his motorcycle — almost anything outside.
Rowe is crazy about the work he does, knowing that his crews are saving lives. But if he had to pack the whole thing in, he says he’d buy a hut in “the islands” somewhere and rent jet skis and beach supplies.
Recently Greg Rowe found a little time to speak with Herald reporter Jim West.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I was a pool check-in clerk at the Elks Club that used to be at Slappey and Palmya. I was about 14 years old. People would show their passes or pay 50 cents or something. It was fun and kind of an eye-opening experience.
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. There wasn’t a lot of shopping places back then. Gibson’s was what I remember, at Slappey and Gordon. They had toys, and things I was interested in. When I started getting a pay check I didn’t have to beg my dad for anything. The good thing was I learned what a dollar meant. I did know I wanted some army men at Gibson’s.
Q. What’s the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. I’ve never asked somebody to do something I wouldn’t do. I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be on an ambulance every day and I know the challenges they face every day. I try to come to work with a positive attitude and try to convey that to all the people. I let them know I’m not there to watch them – I’m there to help them, and to work.
Q. What led you to your current position? Why did you want be in public safety?
A. When I graduated from college and was looking for a job, a friend told me the fire department in Albany was hiring, so I applied and got hired. We had some first aid courses early on and the educators were EMTs. I asked some questions and was told about EMS. Right after that a friend from college called and suggested we attend the EMT program at Georgia State University. We did, and I fell in love with it.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. I looked up to Bobby Tripp, the director before me. He gave me a chance to do this job when I knew nothing else. I’d graduated from college and gone to work at the fire department because I needed a job. That exposed me to EMS. I was the second person Bobby hired when he became director. I watched Bobby and how he handled the budget and the finances and different situations. As I moved up to supervisor I was working more with Bobby. I started asking him more about how things fit in with our department. He really did know a lot about government agencies and how to manage people. For the three years I was assistant director he exposed me to a lot of information as a supervisor. As he got closer to retirement he started to sit back a little and say “here, you run it.”
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. When times get bad, our call volume will increase, yet we were challenged with trying to cut the budget. We did, and we were fortunate that we didn’t cut any positions, and fortunate that we didn’t lose our day to day operations. By evaluating the management of our budget on a regular basis, we were able to reduce expenses in different ways and still keep our response times down and serve the community.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology – examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. – what would you most like to see go away?
A. Automated phone systems. I just don’t like calling a business and getting an automated answer that leads you through so many options to find a person to talk to.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. The iPhone, It’s great for email, pictures and so forth. My wife gets mad at me when we’re on vacation, but is an easy way to stay in touch with work.
Q. What is your favorite tradition?
A. At work it’s drinking coffee and talking with the guys. At home it’s Christmas and being with family.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. Most of my reading is EMS journals, like EMS World, PMS Insider and Emergency Management. The articles have a lot of good information, like role changes in the health care field. Sometimes we’ll find articles on equipment that could help our people. In our particular job, injury is always a factor. These magazines have new ideas on how to move people. We haven’t had a back injury in quite a while.
Q. I’m up and going by?
A. I’m up at 4:30 a.m. on most days, My wife, my golden retriever and I do a two-mile walk and then I’m off to the gym for a workout.
Q. What famous person would you like to meet, and Why?
A. Tim Tebow. He’s a strong Christian and hasn’t bowed under pressure.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activities outside work?
A. I enjoy working out, motorcycle riding, scuba diving and working in the yard. Most anything outside.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. The people I work with. They’re some of the greatest people you could ever know.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Nobody likes to deal with personnel issues. They come to you wanting stuff and there’s no money in the budget for, or somebody needs to be off and we don’t have the coverage for it. I guess not being able to please everybody is the hardest part of this job.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. There were numerous psychology classes I could choose from in school. One of those I took was Industrial Psychology. I thought it would be an easy course. What it really had a lot to do with was the employee workplace. I learned the affects of fluorescent lighting versus the traditional light bulb, a concrete floor versus a carpeted floor. The colors on a wall affects peoples moods and their day to day work. There was more in that class that applies to me than any of the other classes I took.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. To have a beach hut in the islands and rent jet skis, paddle boats and rafts.
Q. Finish this thought; “on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself…
A. In Hawaii.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
Q. Crystal ball time: What’s your call on when the economic recovery for our area will be in full swing?
A. Albany is growing right now. More small businesses and independent stores are opening all the time.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. Kind of easy-listening Christian music, or just about any easy-listening music with a good upbeat tune to it.
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. Growth and economic development. Albany is a hub for southwest Georgia, and I feel it will become a bigger hub.
Q. What was the best vacation you’ve ever taken? Why?
A. A Disney cruise. Seven nights in the eastern Caribbean. It was so relaxing , and they cater to you like a king.
Q. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your line of work?
A. There have been a lot of changes in the 32 years I’ve been in it, like making medicines easier to administer. The biggest life-saver, over the past few years has been the 12-lead heart monitor. When we had the three or four lead type, we could hook you up and find a few things, and then when we got to the hospital they’d hook you up to that big 12-lead machine. The technology developed and they were able to put all that in our little monitors. When the price came down enough, Phoebe provided a lot of EMS services with monitors. Now we’re doing the same 12-lead in the field they do in the hospital. We can transmit that information to the emergency room. The ER physician gets it, the cardiologist gets it, so everybody’s looking at the same thing we’re looking at. It allows the patient to bypass the ER and go straight to the cath lab. That’s pretty amazing technology. It can save a whole lot of heart muscle. There are a lot of people alive now, who are walking around or swimming, or cutting the grass and doing regular activities. Before, if patients didn’t die they could be disabled and not be able to do a lot of stuff.