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Robert Farmer, the newly hired Lee County EMS chief
Robert Farmer, the newly hired Lee County EMS chief / Submitted photo

Rob Farmer

• Age: 44
• Family: Married, three daughters and a son
• Education: Completing a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus in executive leadership at Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Mount Vernon, Ohio
• Experience: 14 years as firefighter and paramedic, nine years as EMS chief.

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Lee County’s Public Safety Department will receive a new director this month in the wake of mismanagement that grounded rescue helicopters and threatened ambulance responses.

Rob Farmer will take public safety’s helm April 18 for a $100,000 a year salary. He hails from Delaware County Ohio, where he ran a smaller but accredited emergency medical response department.

Farmer, 44, said he knows about Lee’s “rocky road,” but he looks forward to its challenges.

“When I come in, it’s going to be an assessment phase for quite a while: realizing what there is, what needs to be done, working closely with administrators, commissioners and employees to establish a strong leadership team and move forward,” Farmer said.

Interim County Manager Doug Meurer tapped Farmer from a list of 180 candidates.

“We are pleased to have Mr. Farmer join us – his experience base and personality will be a great fit for Lee County and its challenges as the community continues to grow,” Assistant County Manager Holly Schwartz said.

Ex-public safety Director John Wilson left amid scrutiny for his role in Medstar. Lee’s 34-year-old medical flight program was shut down in August after nearly a year of federal rule violations.

A clerk of court audit later found mismanagement led to Medstar’s collapse and stands to endanger ground ambulance responses.

“Stability would be the first challenge,” Commissioner Frank Mann said. “It’s been through a lot in the past year, and we still have a lot of challenges to get the old department settled down and running smoothly.”

As Delaware County’s EMS chief, Farmer was in charge of about 140 employees who served 175,000 residents.

In his nine years at the helm, Farmer helped Delaware County EMS obtain a perfect score from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services.

Farmer said he plans for Lee to achieve similar distinction under his leadership.

Lee County EMS’ budgeted cost is $43.4 million.

Commissioner Chairman Cecil Pendergrass has called for Lee to raise its ambulance fees in hopes of scaling back taxpayer subsidies for the program.

Commissioner Larry Kiker said that while talks to privatize ambulances were ended earlier this year, public safety officials need to examine some of the cost-cutting measures those companies proposed, including ways to replace ambulances at a lower price.

“I think we have heard from some private groups that there’s some ways to save money that we need to understand and utilize,” Kiker said.

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