Praise bestowed on retiring Sussex EMS director

GEORGETOWN — Retiring Sussex County Emergency Medical Services director Robert Stuart remembers one of his early chapters several decades ago, riding as an aspiring paramedic in an ambulance piloted by Michael Vincent.

Robert Stuart

Back then, Mr. Vincent, now the president of Sussex County Council, was active in the fire and ambulance service, holding such positions as president and chief of the Seaford Volunteer Fire Department.

“I rode with the likes of Mike Vincent as a young paramedic,” said Mr. Stuart. “He drove the ambulance many a night when he had ambulance duty, and I applaud him for that. He was kind of like one of the godfathers of the paramedic system.”

A historic run as Sussex County EMS director ended late Friday night, when Mr. Stuart concluded a 29-year EMS tenure with the county and began retirement. For 10 of those years, he served as EMS director, which is the longest tenure of any EMS chief in the department’s 30-year history, Sussex County administrator Todd Lawson said.

During the County Council meeting Tuesday, Mr. Stuart was showered with a proclamation, thanks and praise. He received a standing ovation from those social distanced in council chambers as he approached the podium.

“To have thought that 29 years ago, when I started with the paramedics, … and all I wanted to do is help people,” said Mr. Stuart.

Mr. Lawson said Mr. Stuart has served the county with “distinction,” joining SCEMS in 1990 as a student in the first paramedic class of the program’s inaugural year.

With SCEMS, Mr. Stuart has served as a paramedic, quality/training manager, deputy director and then director, since 2010.

During Mr. Stuart’s tenure as director, Sussex County EMS strived for higher standards. In doing so, it earned numerous awards and honors, including regional, national and international recognition as one of the premier advanced life support organizations, Mr. Lawson said.

Robert W. “Robbie” Murray will succeed Mr. Stuart as director of SCEMS, the county-run paramedic system that has 11 paramedic units and complements local fire/ambulance companies during acute emergency calls. County Council appointed Mr. Murray at its July 14 meeting.

“It has certainly been an experience over the 34 years in EMS and 29 years with the county,” Mr. Stuart said. “It has been an incredible journey to think that I would be standing here today. I wouldn’t probably trade any part of my career for anything.”

Mr. Stuart added: “I have 118 wonderful employees. I think they live up every day to our motto of ‘Caring People, Quality Service.’ As long as the department continues to live by that motto — and I wish Robbie well — they’ll do just fine for him as they have done for me.

“I think I leave the department in good hands,” Mr. Stuart said.

Mr. Vincent recalled SCEMS’ somewhat forgettable beginning when, on the first call from The Circle in Georgetown, the vehicle wouldn’t start.

“To where you are today is leaps and bounds. You took a very good system, in my opinion, and made a world-class system. And that is where we are today,” said Mr. Vincent. “I think the people of this county should be very thankful for all that you and your people do, all that Robbie is going do. This is going to continue to grow and get better. It has been an amazing ride for you, but also for the county.”

“From the bottom of my heart, thank you,” said Mr. Stuart. “Thanks for the memories. It has been a ride!”