( 2 Votes )

It’s her first week on the job and she’s meeting with everyone she can.
Cheryl Wilkins is the new Fluvanna County Emergency Services Coordinator.
“I’m just getting adjusted. I need to learn a lot of people,” Wilkins said. “I shouldn’t meet them for the first time in an emergency situation.”
Wilkins comes from James Madison University where she worked on emergency planning and preparedness. She doesn’t have a background in actually providing emergency services herself, but more in helping a community plan for emergencies, she said.
Why this job and why Fluvanna? In a word, she’s on a mission.
“It’s an opportunity to live in and know a county,” Wilkins said. “You know, everyone is given a dream you are supposed to accomplish in life? Especially in social issues? You know, go forth and do good? I love being involved locally to make it a safer place to live.”
Wilkins said she likes being part of a team.
Emergency services in Fluvanna have been in a state of flux for at least a few years. While the all-volunteer Lake Monticello Fire and Rescue squad has a good amount of volunteers, Fluvanna Rescue is lucky to have double digits.
Volunteers - recruiting, training and retaining them – is at the top of Wilkins’ to-do list.
While she’s getting to know the county and how services are provided, Wilkins will be taking note of what works and what needs help.
“It’s important to give autonomy to the things that are working and detailed assistance where assistance is needed,” she said. “I want to be a resource. I have a background in bringing people together. It’s not just us or them. The bottom line for me is the safety and welfare of our residents, and I will do everything I can to coordinate and facilitate relationships, planning, training, and community education efforts to meet that bottom line.”
During a routine inspection of Fluvanna Rescue ambulances last month, two were put out of commission for violations. Within a couple weeks, they were given a clean bill and the okay to run again. Mike Berg at the Office of Emergency Management confirmed the office is now looking into complaints Fluvanna Rescue did not respond to some calls.
“We have received complaints regarding the agency not providing services on at least two different occasions,” Berg wrote in an email. “As with all our investigations, we are gaining additional facts before opening an investigation on this matter.”
Wilkins, too, said she is aware of the matter.
“I see bumps in the road as a challenge. I keep saying, ‘Challenge accepted.’ I see a lot of potential for the county and being able to work with people.”
In fact, one of the tasks that falls to Wilkins is blending paid EMS workers with volunteer staff at Fluvanna Rescue. There has been some pushback from the EMS community about the Board’s decision to look to University of Virginia for help in this area.
“We are contracting with U.Va. to add one paid crew to augment our hardworking volunteers until we can strengthen volunteer recruitment,” Wilkins said. “Our desire is to build a rescue team which, for now, includes both career staff and volunteers, who can learn from each other and work side by side to enhance our rescue services for our county residents. U.Va. has already started the process to fill these positions. Local EMT qualified persons are encouraged to apply.”
Berg said he has talked on the phone with Wilkins and looks forward to meeting her in person soon.
“Ms. Wilkins presence adds another path of communications to assist either the agency or this office in working towards the agency being compliant and providing the service to the community,” Berg wrote.
Wilkins summed up where she’s at during her first few days on the job.
“Right now I am very much in listening mode,” she said. “What’s going well? What ideas are there for improvement? I’m not one to pretend I know everything.”