Douglas County’s first responder assistance coordinator steps down; position won’t be filled
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
After talks of cutting the position to part-time, Douglas County’s first responder assistance coordinator has stepped down, according to the sheriff’s office.
Paul Taylor’s last day with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office was Friday, said Jenn Hethcoat, public information officer. He has also resigned from Chaplain Services, a volunteer program that offers chaplain support to first responders and citizens during times of crisis, Hethcoat said.
Former sheriff Ken McGovern, who retired at the end of June, created the full-time first responder assistance coordinator position in early 2019. Hethcoat said that reducing the position to part time was discussed on Aug. 18 in conjunction with personnel changes as part of a budget restructure.
After Taylor announced his decision to step down, “it was determined the position would not be filled at this time knowing the incoming administration had plans for a larger discussion about mental health needs and structuring support for first responders,” Hethcoat said.
The incoming administration includes Lt. Jay Armbrister, who won the Aug. 4 Democratic primary for sheriff and faces no opponent in the Nov. 3 general election, and his selected undersheriff, Capt. Stacy Simmons. They have been working with Sheriff Randy Roberts, who was appointed by the local Republican Party to fill the remaining six months of McGovern’s term.
“Sheriff Roberts made clear at the beginning of his appointment his intention to bring in whomever won the primary when the election was complete and begin the transition into their new position,” Hethcoat said.
She said that Roberts “has not implemented any changes or platforms specifically directed by Armbrister; he has incorporated some restructures like this budgetary one that will support new opportunities in January when the incoming administration takes office.”
Taylor, as the Journal-World has reported, has been active in first responder assistance in Douglas County for more than two decades.
“Paul Taylor’s experience and dedication in the Chaplaincy will be deeply missed; he was a great comfort and support to many in their grief, fear, and struggle,” Hethcoat said via email.
Taylor worked as a paramedic for about 20 years, and after retiring from that job in 1995, he spent the next 20 years serving as a full-time pastor at a Lawrence church, the Journal-World has reported. In 1997, he became a volunteer chaplain for Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical, and later added dispatch and the sheriff’s office.
In 2016, Taylor was hired as a full-time employee of the sheriff’s office — an administrative training officer who helped with the hiring of corrections officers and working with the patrol officers and served as chaplain. He was first to hold the first responder assistance coordinator position, beginning in 2019.
Hethcoat said Taylor was integral to the development of GuardianNet, a smartphone app that offers resources for mental, emotional, physical and financial health, among other subjects, specific to first responders and their family members.
Hethcoat said there are no changes planned for the county’s use of the app, and that Taylor has made it self-sustaining, so that any needed updates, additions or maintenance to the app can be communicated directly to the developers.
Hethcoat said that although Taylor will be missed, volunteer chaplains remain in service.
“The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office continues to utilize not only the chaplains, but Employee Assistance Programs, Peer Support, and structured debriefings after critical incidents which are all enhanced and readily available through the GuardianNet app,” Hethcoat said.
Nicole Rials, who has worked with Taylor in her role as director of urgent care programs for Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center, said his contribution to first responder wellness in Douglas County “will forever be unmatched.”
“Even if there is additional program implementation by the DGSO, Paul’s absence will be deeply felt,” Rials said via email. “It has been a tremendous honor to work with him over the years.”
Armbrister forwarded the Journal-World’s questions to Hethcoat. The Journal-World asked through Hethcoat to speak with Taylor, but he did not respond to a request for comment.
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• April 10, 2019: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office pursues program to aid first responders