Hard-working woman is local Firefighter of the Year

Published June 03. 2003 8:30AM

Senior Staff Writer

OCALA Battalion Chief Shari Hall's dedication to emergency medical services at Marion County Fire-Rescue runs deep, a work ethic preached by the man who helped raise her since she was four years old.

The man she calls ''Dad,'' actually stepfather Michael Diaz, always told Hall to work hard, stay on a solid career path before getting married and to get a puppy before having children. If the puppy didn't run away, maybe Hall would be ready for a family.

''Dad was very supportive,'' Hall said of Diaz, who retired as a veteran detective after 27 years with the Miami-Dade Police Department. ''He really played an instrumental role in where I am today. He was always there for us.''

Hall, now 35, was named Marion County Firefighter of the Year, an honor she wishes her dad could have witnessed Diaz died suddenly one year ago. Hall says Diaz's support and advice helped push her along the path an EMT to a battalion chief.

''I do wish he was alive to see this,'' said Hall, who is in charge of emergency medical services. ''It was a surprise. I was shocked because I actually nominated someone for the award. It took me by surprise when I heard I won.''

Hall started her career with Ocala Fire-Rescue in 1987. In eight years, she rose to the rank of acting captain. In 1995, she was hired by Marion County Fire-Rescue and soon landed the EMS coordinator's position.

''I had always wanted to work for Marion County, mainly because it is a bigger department with more room for advancement,'' said Hall.

She launched a five-year program to add advanced life support vehicles to Marion County's fleet through a ''Partnership for Life'' program with Munroe Regional Medical Center. Marion County now has advanced life support transport vehicles.

Besides coordinating the ALS transport operations, Hall also writes grants in hopes of getting extra money for required changes in equipment. Recently, Marion County received $250,000 to upgrade monitors and defibrillators on the ALS vehicles.

''Shari Hall is my go-to person,'' said Marion Fire-Rescue's Deputy Chief David Cooper, second in command. ''Whenever I assign her a project, I know it's a done deal. She is also very respected in this department ... and with the public as well.''

Civil service work has always been in Hall's blood. Her mother, Judy Diaz, is a dispatcher for Medley Police Department. Her twin brother, Richard Hall, is a lieutenant for the Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue.

''Civil service is something we have all done,'' she said. ''Most all of us were in law enforcement, rescue or military.''

Hall's career has left little time for marriage, or that puppy. She has her sights set on becoming an EMS division chief, but Marion County must grow to a point where the position is needed.

''The way Marion County is growing, one day there will likely be a need to have an EMS division,'' said Hall, adding that more than 70 percent of all the calls for service are rescue related. ''I love what I do and will always continue to work hard at it.''

Joe Callahan can be reached at joe.callahan@starbanner.com or paged at 898-9649.