Weston EMS: New faces in leadership roles

Michael Schlechter

Michael Schlechter

Weston’s Emergency Medical Service (EMS) has new people at the helm in two leadership positions.

Michael Schlechter is the new chief of Weston EMS, while Cindy Sherlock replaces Schlechter as the department’s chief training officer.

Both Schlechter and Sherlock began their new roles in early April, with Schlechter replacing J.T. Sollazzo, Weston’s longtime EMS chief.

“J.T. was chief for a decade and has done a great job with the department,” said Schlechter. “He had to resign due to changes with his work schedule. A lot of my job is going to be to keep things going on the path they were on. It’s been a well-run department.”

Schlechter’s duties as chief are often in an oversight capacity. He works on scheduling, training, day-to-day operations, and building relationships with neighboring EMS services, fire departments and hospitals. He will effectively manage the town’s 53 volunteer emergency medical technicians (EMTs).

One of Schlechter’s goals for Weston EMS is to maximize “simplicity and efficiency.” For example, he wants to ensure that “jump kits,” or bags used by first responders, are the same across the board for EMTs and police officers.

He also wants to utilize the talents of other ranking EMS members, rather than have every minute detail run through the chief.

“I really want to highlight the chain of command and empower officers more than they were in the past,” said Schlechter. “Traditionally we have committees that report to the chief, and I don’t think that takes full advantage of the talents we have. I want to bring those talents to the forefront and get them more involved in the day-to-day operations here at EMS.”

Schlechter has lived in Weston since 2002. He has two young boys in the school system, in fifth and second grade. When choosing a town to move to, Schlechter said, a town with a volunteer EMS group was important to him.

“My two criteria for moving to a new town were great schools and a volunteer ambulance service,” he said. “I’ve been a volunteer EMT my whole life, and I wasn’t giving that up.”

When Schlechter was 11, volunteer EMTs saved his mother’s life with an epinephrine kit while she was in anaphylactic shock. At that moment, he promised that he was going to become an EMT to help others.

“It’s part of my personality, and it has completely shaped who I am,” he said. “I have been on thousands of calls, I have seen it all. It has helped me learn to manage stress.”

Schlechter said Weston is special because it’s a town that “exists on the backs of volunteers.”

“It seems like everyone in Weston volunteers for something,” he said. “EMS provides a unique volunteer service, we save lives.”

Schlechter said maintaining the volunteer nature of Weston EMS is crucial to him. “When I someday retire from this, I would love to be able to say that we remained fully volunteer and not-for-profit,” he said.

“The one thing you could say about Weston EMS that would make me angry is that we aren’t as professional as other services because we volunteer,” he said. “We are held to the exact same standard as every department in the state, and we are just as good as every department in the state.”

Chief training officer

Before he was named chief, Schlechter was the chief training officer for Weston EMS, but because of his new role, veteran EMT Cindy Sherlock will take over that position.

Cindy Sherlock

Cindy Sherlock

Sherlock is responsible for ensuring that all EMTs are well trained and able to use all equipment properly. Additionally, if there is new protocol put in place by the state, Sherlock is in charge of implementing those protocols.

“I have to make sure everyone is on the same page with new training,” she said. Last year, EMTs had to be trained in Narcan, the drug used to treat opioid overdoses, so the training officer’s job was getting all EMTs up to speed.

Sherlock has lived in Weston for 15 years and has two children, a son in seventh grade and a daughter in sixth grade.

In her time as an EMT, Sherlock has helped set up a program for Weston EMTs to “ride along” with Norwalk’s ambulance service. This program essentially gives more opportunity for EMTs to gain experience and “practice.”

“It’s important to have well-trained EMTs, because we’re about 25 minutes from the closest hospital,” she said. “The program is great, because someone can be on duty and not get any calls. This helps with hands-on experience that every EMT really needs.”

Sherlock praised Schlechter’s work in the role and anticipates continuing the trend he has set forth.

“Michael did a great job as the training officer,” Sherlock said. “We’re going to keep the tradition of adding new, relevant training for all of our EMTs.”

Recently, Sherlock helped spearhead a program in which EMTs can come to the department on Saturdays and get trained more thoroughly on equipment they don’t feel completely comfortable with.

“It’s about more than just learning techniques; it’s about older members helping younger members learn tips, and vice versa,” she said. “There are some pearls of wisdom that come out when you get older EMTs and younger EMTs together.”

A nutritionist by trade, Sherlock said she has always been interested in nutrition and health. She was inspired to join Weston EMS after her daughter had a life-threatening experience when she was young and EMTs showed up to help.

“EMTs came to my house when my daughter was 16 months old and choking on a piece of plastic,” she said. “I thought it was absolutely incredible that a group of volunteers showed up to my house to help. It was so comforting.”

For the benefit of the community, Weston EMS is planning a blood pressure screening outside Peter’s Market over the weekend.

To learn more about Weston EMS, including how to get involved or how to support it, visit the website, westonEMS.com.

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