Getting the top job

How Austin Travis County EMS is publicly selecting its next EMS chief – How would you fare?


Update: On Feb. 8, 2020, ATCEMS announced Robert Luckritz was selected as the new chief. Luckritz, a longtime paramedic and licensed attorney, was chosen from an initial field of 37 applicants that was narrowed to two — Luckritz and interim chief Jasper Brown. Learn more about the process Luckritz went through to be named chief here. 

In April 2021, nationally respected and longtime Austin Travis County EMS Chief, Ernie Rodriguez, retired. His departure set the wheels in motion for a nationwide search to find a replacement. It’s a big job. The city’s EMS department serves 2.2 million people across Austin and Travis County and covers more than 1,000 square miles. The chief is responsible for strategic planning, management and oversight of all operations in the EMS department.

ATCEMS Interim Chief Jasper D. Brown and Robert Luckritz, chief operating officer of Transformative Healthcare, a multi-state EMS, medical transportation, and public health organization in New England.
ATCEMS Interim Chief Jasper D. Brown and Robert Luckritz, chief operating officer of Transformative Healthcare, a multi-state EMS, medical transportation, and public health organization in New England. (Photo/City of Austin)

In an open and inclusive process, the city engaged in a search that kept the public informed at every step of the way. The candidate search opened on Sept. 8, 2021, and initially yielded 37 applicants. After screening and review by leadership, the candidate pool was narrowed to five top candidates. The five were interviewed by two city panels, whereafter two candidates emerged: ATCEMS Interim Chief Jasper D. Brown and Robert Luckritz, chief operating officer of Transformative Healthcare, a multi-state EMS, medical transportation, and public health organization in New England.

During an online Community Input Meeting, candidates each answered a set of nine questions, after which viewers were invited to offer their feedback on the finalist by either entering comments into a website or by contacting the city’s 311 number before the city manager makes a final appointment decision. Austin Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano noted during the public meeting, “no doubt the recruitment process and the input the community is providing will bring us the best EMS chief.”

Can you answer the questions posed to ATCEMS top candidates?

The questions posed to Brown and Luckritz covered every aspect of EMS leadership and management, and are posted below.

An EMS chief, someone who aspires to be a future EMS chief, or an EMS provider interested in the present and future of EMS may do well to have a go at answering the questions (replacing Austin Travis with their own service area). How would you do with not only having to come up with a great answer but also sell yourself to the watching general public? Oh, and by the way, you have 15 minutes to answer all the questions posed. Set your timer, and go!

  1. Can you share with us your professional background and experience highlighting the points that will help you be successful as the next EMS chief and why you want to serve in this position?
  2. How would you engage your staff to make decisions about response and deployment models and what metrics would you use to ensure their effectiveness?
  3. While being budget-conscious, how can the agency continue to be a medical community leader in patient-centered emergency and public health?
  4. How will you increase employee morale in order to retain and recruit enough employees to keep the department functioning?
  5. How would you describe the difference between management and leadership – how would the organizations you have led describe your leadership style?
  6. Besides dispatching an ambulance to a 911 call, what other priorities do you believe EMS should be focused on in addition to prehospital emergency care?
  7. What do equity and inclusion mean to you and how do you incorporate them into your work at EMS?
  8. What alternative staffing models have you used in your experience that might be brought to the agency to reduce employee fatigue and mandatory overtime while keeping units staffed?
  9. In addition to topics already discussed, do you believe there are any other challenges that may be facing the agency – if so how do you intend to address them?

How did you get on? Many of these questions could be fodder for individual articles, webinars, or podcast subjects in their own right. How did Brown and Luckritz answer? All their responses are now a matter of public record and can be found here.

At the time of writing, a chief has yet to be appointed, but the clear winner has to be the process – the inclusive way a soon to be very public figure receives maximum public scrutiny but also has a chance to show, tell and demonstrate their qualities to everyone they hope to serve.

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