Brookline ambulance director to retire after 23 years of service
BROOKLINE — Wes Whittier, who started as the Brookline ambulance director and emergency management director 23 years ago, is set to retire at the end of December.
Whittier started with just one ambulance, very few volunteers and a small facility, but he has presided over the growth of the town’s emergency management systems.
The 71-year old Whittier, from Pepperell, Mass., is counting the days until retirement but said he’ll miss the people of Brookline and the interaction.
“I have one great bunch of volunteers,” said Whittier.
The ambulance is staffed by 22 volunteers and one paid paramedic, while the fire department is paid per call.
“When I came here we had very few people. My oldest employee is 81 years and has been on the service for over 30 years and still doing calls,” said Whittier.“In 1990 we had one ambulance and a small ambulance bay but today we have two modern ambulances and one nice safety complex.”Whittier created and trained the Brookline Emergency Response Team, and played a role in the construction of the original Safety Complex in 2004 and the 2013 addition.
“When I came here I vowed that none of the volunteers would use any money out of their wallet, unless they want to buy me coffee,” he said with a laugh.
Their training is funded by taxes and donations.
It takes a lot of training and gear to be a volunteer EMT. For starters, there is a 120-hour course, which could cost $900, along with about $3,500-$4,000 for a uniform and gear. Refresher and continuing education courses are also required.
The ambulance has three volunteers on each shift.
“We are a strange breed and our ambulance does not charge the patient and we do not bill insurance companies,” added Whittier.
Donations are used to buy new equipment and for additional training not in the budget.
“My whole adult life has been in public service,” Whittier said.
He started as a firefighter in 1963, was a police officer for a time and has been an EMT since 1974.
“People call me a dinosaur,” he said.
Prior to working in Brookline, Whittier was on the Pepperell Fire Department for 40 years, including 14 years as chief.
“Wes served four roles as ambulance director, emergency management director, building inspector and hazardous materials coordinator,” Brookline Town Administrator Tad Putney said. “During his first year in Brookline, the ambulance service averaged one call for service per week. Now it averages one call per day.”“The (Board of Selectmen) is grateful for the many years of dedicated service Wes had provided to the residents of Brookline. Under his leadership, Brookline has maintained a dedicated group of volunteer ambulance attendants during a time when finding volunteers for many tasks has become more challenging. Wes has continually succeeded in recruiting and retaining members of the ambulance service that make it the invaluable town asset it is today. He was also diligent with taxpayers’ money”, the board said in a written statement.Whittier said he has enjoyed his time serving the Brookline community.
“Our service has been very good. I’ll miss coming to work every day and seeing all the people we normally see,” said Whittier.
He won’t be bored. His wife already has a “honey-do list” ready for him.