"I remember your voice," said a woman from behind the festival booth. "Do you work with the ambulance service?"
She was talking to Danny Blevins. While she didn't know his face, the sound of his voice flashed her back to a car wreck where she had been severely injured. Danny's voice had talked her through everything. That encounter, early in his career, helped affirm his path, Danny says.
As director of Morehead-Rowan Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Danny, 55, tells his team that what they say and how they conduct themselves truly matters. Part of Danny's decision to organize, train and prepare for emergencies in his hometown is rooted in tragedy. When Danny was eight, in the early 1970s, he heard a terrible car crash outside his home--it was his grandparents coming to visit. No emergency response existed and his grandmother died.
Danny started in public service by becoming a volunteer firefighter and later a paramedic. In his leadership role, Danny educates his staff to be open-minded and to respect those they serve.
"There's tough living going on out in the hills and hollers, and they're our people," he says. He wants to instill that "everybody has a background that put them in that situation. We don't judge them, we take care of them."
Danny encourages self-care among his staff. When he began as a paramedic, staff left the station only for 911 calls. Now he allows employees to attend to family needs and to find time to replenish themselves. Danny's mother, Ruth, calls him a peacemaker. For Danny, public service is an ethic and a framework for interpreting the world around him.
"It doesn't matter who we run into, creed, color, situation--you treat everybody the same," he says. "You just take pride in helping people."