Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps has sworn in a new chief and line officers.
Chief Bill Wilkinson has succeeded ex-chief Rod Richardson.
Wilkinson, 42, of Riverhead, served two terms as chief (2015 and 2016) and is a 23-year emergency medical services veteran. He’s been a paramedic for 21 of those years. He’s also served on the corps’ board of directors, including as board president and vice president.
Wilkinson’s passion for his calling is evident. He volunteers with RVAC even though he works a full-time paramedic job and holds down part-time jobs in that role as well. He’s working 60 to 80 hours a week in EMS, before setting foot in RVAC’s Osborn Avenue’s headquarters
That’s what drives him to the chief’s role, he said.
“I like to share my experience and help out in other ways,” Wilkinson said.
He enjoys mentoring new volunteers; watching them grow in the job is very rewarding, he said.
“A lot of new members are young — 18-year-olds. They may lack direction. You work with them and give them direction and they end up making a career out of it,” Wilkinson said.
It’s important work, especially in a community like Riverhead, where the demand for the corps’ services keeps growing.
RVAC answered roughly 4,300 calls in 2018, the chief said, noting that the full tally has not yet been finalized. The last time Wilkinson took the reins, in 2015, the prior year’s total was just over 3,500. In its first year of operation — 1978 — RVAC ran 700 calls, according to town records.
Membership has held steady at just over 100, the chief said. There’s a lot of turnover in new members. “It’s a very high-stress environment,” Wilkinson said The average member lasts only about three years, he said.
“But if you make it past five years, you’re here for life.”
Wilkinson said the new crop of line officers is “one of the best crews I’ve ever seen at the ambulance.”
The new officers are a good mix, he said. “There’s a lot of experience as well as some new people. We’re training our replacements.”