JEFFERSON —After more than 40 years in the ambulance business, American Emergency Vehicles President Mark Van Arnam will officially retire Friday, Jan. 15 and pass the torch along to Randy Hanson, Executive Vice President of Operations.
A retirement celebration was held at AEV for Van Arnam on Tuesday, Jan. 12 where he was awarded a plaque in honor of his exceptional and outstanding leadership.
“It’s turned out to be a very good career for me,” Van Arnam said. “I’ve met hundreds of thousands of great people. It’s been a great industry. I’ve seen it evolve and I’ve grown with the industry.”
Van Arnam says he looks forward to spending time with his family and focusing on his roll with the Commission for Accreditation for Ambulance Services assisting with changes to ambulance standards in the country.
According to Van Arnam, he has agreed to act as a consultant for AEV for one year following his retirement to facilitate the transition as Hanson moves into his new roll as President.
“Randy Hanson and I go back about 30 years. We came here together and he has been my right hand man for all that time,” Van Arnam said. “The community, employees and vendors can take great comfort that when Randy takes over, they are in good hands.”
Where it all began
Van Arnam, who grew up in upstate New York, says he remembers always wanting to ride in the ambulances at the local fire department where his father was the assistant fire chief. He became a volunteer for the department and earned his certification to run ambulance calls.
Van Arnam says the first ambulance he drove out on a call was a brand new 1968 Cadillac ambulance.
After college, Van Arnam spent two years serving in Vietnam before working for an ambulance service in Daytona Beach, Florida for a decade.
“It was very interesting,” Van Arnam said. “It is a wild and woolly place to be in the ambulance business and I enjoyed it very much but I had a great interest in being in the manufacturing side of the business.”
Van Arnam left the service side of the industry to work for Wheeled Coach, an ambulance builder in Orlando, which is where he met Hanson.
According to Van Arnam, the two were given the opportunity to move to Ashe County in 1991, when AEV was established.
“It was great timing for us and a great opportunity to come to this community,” Van Arnam said. “It’s been the best place to do what we do,”
Hanson said moving to Ashe County with his family was the best decision he ever made.
“I would never want to go back or even live anywhere else,” Hanson said. “This is an ideal place, as far as I’m concerned, for manufacturing and certainly an ideal place to live.”
According to Hanson, Van Arnam’s retirement is bittersweet but the company has the management team in place to move forward. Hanson also said that Van Arnam will leave behind a set of shoes that will be impossible to fill.
“Our goal is just to try and live up to those standards,” Hanson said. “We’re going to go in a little bit of a different direction but we’re still going to keep all the integrity, all the honesty and all the customer service and reliability that we became famous for.”
“It’s all about the folks who work here”
Van Arnam said he is leaving during a strong period in the company and that AEV is being left in the great hands of the company’s employees.
“The workforce here is phenomenal,” Van Arnam said. “Whenever customers come here, they are just blown away by what happens here. The work ethic and the level of quality and the attitude of the people here is unmatched.”
According to Van Arnam, AEV is number one in efficiency, performance and quality out of 14 nationwide manufacturing divisions of AEV’s parent company, REV Group.
“I didn’t do that personally. It’s everybody that works here. There’s a great responsibility and a great appreciation for the company,” Van Arnam said. “We really respect our people and appreciate our people and I think in turn, they appreciate the company. It’s all about the folks who work here not about the management.”
Van Arnam said the expansion into the old Gates facility in Jefferson will be a huge opportunity for AEV.
“Increasing our footprint in Ashe County and good job security for all the people who work here and continuing to make extremely high quality products and services for our customers, that’s very significant,” Van Arnam said. “I think it has great potential.”
Hanson also said that the addition of a new production facility will allow AEV to operate with greater efficiency and expand production capacity.
Serving Ashe County
Van Arnam and Hanson both agree that it is important for AEV to continue to “pay it forward” in Ashe County.
“That’s something the company and the employees really feel strongly about,” Hanson said.
AEV is well known for their charity program that allows employees to contribute money from each of their paychecks throughout the year to donate to local organizations.
“We’re a community based organization. We’re all about Ashe County,” Van Arnam said. “The charity program, it was our willingness and our ability to put money back in the community.”
This year, AEV employees were able to contribute $18,000 to local charity efforts – money which AEV matched. In total, the company and its employees distributed $37,000 across 16 local organizations.
“It’s all focused on Ashe County because that’s where we live and that’s who we will continue to serve,” Van Arnam said.
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers