GLASGOW — A one-of-a-kind man who treats people with respect and dignity is how former coworkers and friends describe Mike Swift — who was the director of Barren-Metcalfe County Emergency Medical Services for more than 41 years until retiring Wednesday.
A reception that drew more than 100 people was held at the T.J. Health Pavilion Community Center on Thursday to honor Swift, who also served as Barren County Coroner, a position he stepped down from as of Sept. 1 as well. Volunteer firefighters, first responders and dispatchers hailed Swift for his leadership and character, while others who served in the field with him simply said he’s irreplaceable.
“He is a fantastic, caring person. He’s one-of-a-kind,” said Connie Taylor, an administrative assistant for BMCEMS who worked with Swift for eight years. “You could go to him for everything, and he would be there.”
BMCEMS paramedic Garland Gilliam said Swift’s impact on the community can’t be measured.
“There’s not a person in Barren County who hasn’t been touched by him,” Gilliam said.
Jim Spears worked as a dispatcher under Swift’s leadership for 28 years. He was a neighbor to Swift before he worked under him, and Spears said Swift is “just an all-around good man.”
“You’ll never find another one like him,” Spears said.
Swift graduated from Western Kentucky University and served as the director of BMCEMS since the service’s inception. He’s been called a legend by his fellow EMS professionals, and he said Wednesday that BMCEMS has “come a long way through the employees that work there.”
“I will miss them the most,” Swift said.
Asked about his leadership philosophy in light of the overwhelming display of loyalty and respect from his employees, Swift said he’s always kept it simple.
“What I’ve tried to do since I was a teenager is to treat everybody else like family,” he said.
Kentucky State Trooper B.J. Eaton has worked several service calls with Swift through the years. It’s a tough job, as coroners and EMS directors are called to scenes to deal with death and injury, he said. Swift’s genuine concern for people is something Eaton said he will never forget.
“He’s the type of guy who cares first, and does his job second,” Eaton said. “To have someone there that genuinely cares not only about the person he’s dealing with but their family, is, well, it’s a rarity.”
Jason Blakley was tabbed as the interim ambulance director last month. Thursday marked 22 years since Blakley first began working with the service and Swift.
“How do you sum up somebody like Mike? It’s almost impossible,” Blakley said. “He’s been family from day one.”
Swift said he’s already put in an application for a part-time job, and plans to remain active in Barren County.
“I don’t think I’ll be able to just sit at home,” he said.
One of Swift’s hopes for the ambulance service is to see it funded adequately in the future. He said with an aging population, the demand for professional medical and dispatch services is growing.
Shelly Adwell, an emergency medical technician for BMCEMS, wrote a poem titled “He is Simply Amazing” about her former boss.
“He is a hero to many people, he is my hero,” a line from the poem reads. “He is simply amazing.”