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Rogue River's new fire chief hails from Southern California

Former chief of Coalinga City says he's looking forward to getting to knowhis new community

ROGUE RIVER ' Today begins a new era for the Rogue River Fire District, officials say.

Chief Ben Ramsey, formerly of the Coalinga City Fire Department in California, will replace 18-year veteran Greg Winfrey ' who resigned on June 7 to become a battalion chief with Jackson County Fire District No. 3.

I'm looking forward to getting involved with the community, says Ramsey, 50.

City Administrator and Fire Board Chairman Mark Reagles says Ramsey was the unanimous choice, beating out 16 other candidates for the district's top slot.

He is really confident and professional, says Reagles. His years of experience are an asset to the department and to the community.

— Specifically, Reagles said, the former Army medic's success in pulling Coalinga's ambulance transport account out of the red was exactly the type of experience the board was seeking.

The (Rogue River) fire department is running into funding issues, says Reagles. The ambulance service is having trouble with Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements. We needed someone with experience in that area.

Ramsey says rate changes was the key to improving finances for Coalinga's three-ambulance district ' which covers 1,000 square miles.

We arranged our rates and turned that around, said Ramsey. We're still paying back the deficit, but we're no longer running in the red.

He is anxious to begin researching Rogue River's specific fiscal situation, he says. But the answer will lie in one of two options, he says ' increasing revenues or decreasing expenses.

Hesitant to take immediate action that could increase patient rates, Ramsey said he'd prefer to pursue grants for medical supplies and other cost-saving options, as well as improving collection rates.

This is going to be one tremendous learning curve for me, Ramsey says. I'm excited.

Ramsey enjoyed his 28-years of service at the urban district in central California. But he'd been actively seeking employment at a rural district for the past three years, he says.

I was ready for a change, says Ramsey. But I was specific about what I was looking for.

When he read about Rogue River on the Internet, he immediately sent in his resume and attended his first interview in June.

The interview process is a two-way street, says Ramsey. You want to sell yourself and you want to feel comfortable with the department. It was a fit. Everything clicked.

After Ramsey ended his Army service as a medic in 1976, he pursued his fire-science degree in Redding, Calif., and worked in Northern California before returning to Coalinga. Ramsey and his wife, Kelly, have two adult sons, Jason and Dustin. Ramsey is familiar with Southern and Central Oregon. He has several family members throughout the state, he says.

Reagles said the board also emphasized the community aspect of all prospective chiefs' resumes. Ramsey's references specifically praised his efforts as a volunteer athletic coach for football and freestyle wrestling teams, says Reagles.

The most important thing to me was to have someone with strong character traits, said Reagles. They all said (Ramsey) was a very community-oriented person. The kind of guy who's the first to show up and the last to leave.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail Rogue River's new fire chief hails from Southern California"sspecht@mailtribune.com.