Tacoma Fire medical director honored for 49 years of service

The City of Tacoma honors one man who has had the same job for nearly 50 years.

The longest serving contracted employee in the history of Tacoma’s fire department was honored by Tacoma City Council Tuesday for his service.

Tacoma Fire Medical Director James Billingsley has been with the department for 49 years, and he said his career has been a great one.

"I've never really gone to work very much,” Billingsley said. “I've just gone to do something I've enjoyed, and that's not work."

Billingsley plans to retire in January.

Billingsley got the job by knocking on the fire department’s door. In 1967, Billingsley asked the department if it would like to start providing paramedic services to the community. Its first class graduated in 1973.

A lot has changed since then.

"Equipment is improved, protocols have improved, paramedics have been able to do so much for Tacoma citizens,” said Tacoma Fire Chief James Duggan.

The walls in Billingsley's office show how much Tacoma appreciates him. They are lined with awards since the 1970s. However, his biggest fan may be back at home.

"I'm extremely proud," said his wife Nancy.  "I've always known he was outstanding."

Billingsley is finishing up paperwork in his final year as medical director. With no more classes or students to teach, certain sentiments will linger.

"It's a long term connection, and I have a great affinity for the kind of person that wants to be helpful and that's primarily why we're there,” Billingsley said.

Billingsley also has an unusual hobby – the ukulele.

"I'm playing the last half of my 80s, "said Billingsley, while he sat in his chair in his Tacoma home and played his ukulele.

Billingsley learned how to play in college, and got better when he and Nancy traveled to Hawaii.

While his song in this role may be coming to an end, his sound will be unforgettable.

"We're never going to be able to replace Dr. Billingsley," said Duggan.

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Copyright 2016 KING


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