Jerry Newell is the Pasquotank County Emergency Services Director, but that wasn’t his plan back when he was a student at Appalachian State University.
Growing up in Elizabeth City, Newell got hooked into being a DJ back when the initials stood for Disc Jockey — you know, he spun actual black vinyl albums. He would spin for parties and local radio stations, but something about working to save lives seemed to reach out and grab Newell.
These days if you don’t know him as the director of emergency services, you likely know him as DJ Taz.
From local watering holes to parties and events, Newell is a fixture on the music scene here. Aside from doing something he loves, he has the added benefit of keeping up with popular music and not tiring of the sounds of his teen sons’ generation.
At 44, Newell seems to have it all. He’s a dedicated family man with two careers he loves.
The Daily Advance: How long have you been working in emergency services? How did you get started?
Jerry Newell: 1991 was the year I started. I was working in radio at the time. I had a friend who wanted me to take the EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class at the time. I got talked into joining the volunteers of the rescue squad. I was hooked. I loved it. In September 1997 I threw in my hat for a part-time position here and in February of ’98 they hired me full time.
TDA: How much have things changed over the years you have been in this career?
JN: They have changed tremendously. We have converted to an all-paid service with volunteers supplementing. We’ve more than doubled the size of our fleet.
Training requirements have gotten more stringent. We’ve tripled the staff since 1991.
Technology has increased. That’s a big one. We can pull information on the cell phone. We can take a picture of the EKG and send it through the cell phone service.
TDA: What is the most challenging aspect of working in your field?
JN: From a director’s standpoint, it is the different personalities of the personnel. On the EMT side the most challenging is children and pediatrics. They’re smaller people … it’s hard to stomach when something happens to a child.
TDA: What is the most rewarding thing about working in emergency services?
JN: I can tell you that that is seeing the difference you made in somebody’s life in your hands. That thank-you is one of the most rewarding things.
TDA: With an aging population do you see more need for emergency service workers?
JN: Yes. That is 100 percent yes and that is what we’re experiencing now with our expansion to non-emergency transport services. (And the need for more trained EMTs.)
TDA: What advice would you give a young person interested in this field?
JN: Find a college that offers you an EMT program. Get at least a year of EMT basic. The other thing is volunteer your time. Don’t think you can just walk through the door. The field is the greatest trainer.
TDA: How did you get started as a DJ?
JN: I was 15 and there was a teen hangout called The Place. It was for high school-age students to come out and give them something to do. They paid me $25 a night. I took out an $800 loan from my dad and bought a pair of speakers and an amplifier.
TDA: What sort of investment does it take to get started as a DJ?
JN: Nowadays the business is a lot different from when I got started. Then it was vinyl and mechanical. Now it’s about digital. You’re probably looking at a $700 to $800 laptop. … Probably a $5,000 investment to get a good sound system and lights. And there’s the trailer.
TDA: Do you have a favorite type of venue?
JN: It would be a wedding venue. The weddings are the best because you get to meet different people and you get to go different places and the decorations are great.
TDA: What type of music do you prefer to play at functions and clubs? What sort of music do the crowds ask for these days?
JN: Top 40 mix from the late ‘60s to current music. No country. But it is mainstream; that’s the best term for it. I do it on the fly. You can run off the (Billboard Hot 100) chart and see my play list from requests.
TDA: How did you get the name DJ Taz?
JN: Taz-2. That was bestowed upon me by my roommate in 1988. I put it up on the marquee as a joke when a lady asked what she should call me.
There was a guitar player in a band named Taz. I couldn’t call myself Taz so I said Taz Jr.,or Taz-2.
TDA: When you retire from emergency services will you continue work as a DJ or do you have another dream career lined up?
JN: I’ve always said I’ll continue to play music as long as I enjoy it. I’ve got 15 more years here and that will put me at 60. My retirement plan is to move to the mountains.