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Willie Debord retires after nearly forty years in emergency medical care

By: Michael Ganzman
Freelance Writer

After 38 years of working as a Johnson County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) official, Willie Debord has retired.
Debord has been a constant presence in emergency medical services for the last four decades, starting in 1977 when he and his uncle ran the first rescue transport service in Johnson County as volunteers. Over the years, Debord has made thousands of trips to assist the injured and to deliver them to medical facilities. After a while, Debord became part of the EMS administration when promoted to assistant director, where he worked in public relations and dealt with the day-to-day management of the organization.
Even though he reached an advanced management position, Debord remained humble, always helping out his employees by answering calls, storing files and even changing the trash from time to time.
“He’s not the kind of guy to say ‘hey, go dig that ditch!’ and then sit back and watch you,” said Betty Debord, Willie’s wife. “He’s the one to say ‘hey I’ll help you dig that ditch.’ That’s just the way he is.”
Debord stated that he regularly worked 80 to 100-hour weeks as an EMS employee. He also worked at the now-closed Mountain City glove factory for 14 years prior to becoming an EMS worker. Debord was also on the Johnson County 911 Board, still works as the county coroner and co-runs State Line Fireworks in Trade, Tennessee with his family.
“I guess I’m a workaholic,” said Debord. “All I had ever known was work. And I love to work.”
This constant work ethic is impressive but it can often complicate things, particularly when it comes to family.
“There are a lot of things I have missed with my family over the years,” he said. “But that was my life…and it’s a job that someone has to do. And it’s been rewarding to help people.”
Debord’s family has been supportive of his near constant shifts at work as an emergency medical official.
“I remember one time he got a call,” Mrs. Debord said. “I told him ‘Willie, don’t go’ and he said ‘now honey, what if that was your mama laying down there sick, wouldn’t you want someone there just as fast as they could?’ And I said ‘I’ll never say another word. You go, Willie.’”

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