Shelton resident is named first Trumbull emergency management chief

Joseph Laucella, assistant chief of Echo Hose Ambulance in Shelton, will serve as Trumbull’s first chief of emergency management services.

Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst made the announcement Friday, joined by Trumbull Police Chief Thomas Kiely, who was on the search committee, and Trumbull EMS (TEMS) officials Barbara Crandall and Michael DelVecchio. Laucella starts his new position March 25.

Laucella, who has been an EMT since age 16, has 20 years of experience in EMS and has been assistant chief in Shelton for nine years.

Under his leadership, Echo Hose Ambulance has increased its fleet of ambulances from three to seven, successfully covering 99% of the 4,700-plus emergency calls received each year, using a combination paid and volunteer force. Echo Hose is similar to TEMS, in that it is a mix of mostly volunteer members with a few paid positions.

Positive change

Herbst said Laucella was the top choice among 40 candidates, and the first selectman believes Laucella can bring positive change to Trumbull’s EMS, including less outsourcing of emergency calls.

“In my 37 years in law enforcement, I have had the opportunity to interview many candidates, and without question, Joseph Laucella was one of the strongest candidates I have ever interviewed for a position,” Kiely said. “There is no doubt in my mind that under Mr. Laucella’s leadership, TEMS will become the model emergency medical service provider in the state of Connecticut.

“Joe has proven an ability to turn things around for the better, and I know he will do so in Trumbull, and I am looking forward to working with him in fostering even greater collaboration and teamwork among our emergency service providers,” Kiely said.

The interview panel consisted of TEMS Chairman Joseph Rodriguez, Board of Finance Chairwoman Elaine Hammers, Aquarion executive and Trumbull resident Bruce Silverstone, Chief Kiely, Fire Marshal Meagan Murphy, and Town Attorney Dennis Kokenos.

“We want to take Trumbull EMS to the next level, and under Joe’s leadership we can do that,” Herbst said.

New position was recommended

The EMS position, which pays $85,000 a year, was created based on the Holdsworth Report, an independent analysis of Trumbull EMS that recommended the new position in order to help the department respond to more calls and provide a clearer chain of command.

Laucella spoke highly of the current volunteers and leadership of TEMS and said his goals include recruiting more volunteers and becoming a larger presence in town.

Community involvement

“We are going to be part of the community — entrenched in the community,” Laucella said. “We want people to rely on us if there is a problem with their oxygen — they can call us — or if they have a problem with a bill. We want to be face to face with the community, in an educational way as well.”

In his work in Shelton, Laucella was active in community service efforts with volunteer EMTs, including holiday toy collection and promoting safe driving for teens, especially around prom time. He said he wants to continue to promote community service in the new position.

“It helps us be part of the community and it’s team building,” he said of service.

Laucella is married and has two daughters.

Getting new recruits, especially youths

Barbara Crandall said Trumbull EMS currently has about 40 volunteers, which has decreased the last few years. DelVecchio recalled that at its peak, TEMS had about 120 volunteers who had to fight for shifts.

In the past year, Trumbull EMS had 4,085 calls.

Laucella wants to recruit high school students to become EMTs, something the first selectman supports.

“I really want to look toward the youth,” Laucella said. “I started EMS when I was 16, and I started out because I wanted to be a fireman or a police officer, but I realized I loved it. It was a big part of my youth, and I started it at a time when I could have gone another way — it kept me on the straight and narrow.”

Privatizing was an option

With a declining number of volunteers and an aging population, Trumbull EMS challenges are not unique, and privatizing the service was an option.

“It’s very easy to say we are going to privatize, in order to save the taxpayers money,” Herbst said.

But, he said, if the town can do the job efficiently, it’s a better system.

“With Trumbull people as volunteers, they take pride in their work because they live here,” Herbst said. “That means something in a small town.”

Chief Kiely also spoke of the hard work and devoted volunteer force.

The police are committed to working closely with EMS, Kiely said. The proposed police budget for next year includes a new vehicle that would carry emergency medical equipment, usually kept in the station, to come out on calls, as backup.

“It’s a commitment to work together, and Joe is on board,” Kiely said.

Other public safety appointments

Two weeks ago, the town hired Coleen Figliuzzi as the new Trumbull director of nursing, and the Trumbull Housing Authority appointed Harriet Polansky as acting director of Stern Village a few weeks ago. Herbst said the new hires, including Laucella, are positive steps forward.

“These hires are all positions that affect, in one way or another, the health, safety and well-being of the community,” he said.