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Leadership Team

John J. Peterson – Chief Operating Officer

John J. Peterson is the Chief Administrative Officer for Sunstar Paramedics. He has held many leadership roles since he started working with Paramedics Plus in October 2004.  Previously, he was the chief operating officer of the Emergency Medical Services Authority, the Paramedics Plus-operated ambulance service provider for Tulsa and Oklahoma City, from 2012-2013 before returning to Sunstar.

John is an experienced field operations leader and was the EMS transport sector officer during an active shooter situation in January 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  He was also responsible for the EMSA ambulance response to the Moore, Oklahoma tornado on May 20, 2013 during which EMSA transported 71 patients.  In August 2016 John was the ambulance staging officer for the evacuation of 209 patients from Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Pasco County during Hurricane Hermine.

John earned his master’s degree in occupational therapy from Barry University in Miami and his MBA in healthcare management from the University of Texas at Tyler.  He is licensed as a Paramedic in Florida, and holds a National Board Certification and Florida state certification as an Occupational Therapist.  John has a Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification and is a graduate of the American Ambulance Association Ambulance Service Manager course.

John received the Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni Award for first responders in 2013 as well as recognition by Pinellas County for his work preparing the EMS system with personal protective equipment during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.

John is the current Vice President of the Florida Ambulance Association which is an elected volunteer position.  He is also a member of the American Ambulance Association bylaws committee and professional standards committee.  He participates locally as a member of the Pinellas County EMS Advisory Council as well as the Pinellas EMS Leadership Group.

Debbie Vass – Director of Quality Initiatives

Debbie Vass is the Director of Quality Initiatives for Paramedics Plus. Previously, she was the Chief Administrative Officer for Sunstar Paramedics. She joined Sunstar Paramedics as an EMT in 1986 and has worked as a paramedic, registered nurse and director of clinical services within the organization. Debbie’s primary focus is ensuring quality patient care throughout all levels of the Sunstar team.

A certified paramedic and licensed nurse in the state of Florida, Debbie has also served as an adjunct, non-credit faculty/CME Instructor at St. Petersburg College and has taught Pinellas County Continuing Education Classes to EMTs, paramedics and nurses. She holds associate’s degrees in nursing and emergency service management from St. Petersburg College and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in management.

She was named “Nurse of the Year” by the State of Florida in 2008, and helped steer Sunstar Paramedics to earn a Florida Governor’s Sterling Award in 2009. She also serves as a Florida Governor Sterling Lead Examiner. Debbie is a native of Pinellas County and a graduate of the Leadership Pinellas class of 2009. Her hobbies include bicycling, movies and photography.

Richard Schomp – Director of Operations

Richard Schomp is the Director of Operations for Sunstar Paramedics. For 25 years Richard has worked in various roles within the company beginning in 1987 when he began his career as a part time emergency medical technician. He then went on to complete paramedic’s school at St. Petersburg College and eventually became the company’s Tactical Paramedic Supervisor.

Richard has a deep, hands on understanding of every segment of Sunstar’s operational channels. He spent several years working in the Communications Center as an operator overseeing quality assurance. During that time, Richard was instrumental in helping the Communication Center complete three rigorous accreditation processes.

Richard is also a Pinellas County certified paramedic and state of Florida firefighter. He possesses an extensive background in emergency management and labor management and even retired in 2012 as a District Chief from the City of Seminole.

Richard has been a resident of Pinellas County for over three decades and has been married to his wife Doreen for 26 years with whom he has three grown children.

Jeremy Tinter – Director of Clinical Services

Jeremy Tinter is Paramedics Plus’ newly appointed Director of Clinical Services for the Pinellas Operation. Jeremy served as the Clinical Services Coordinator for Sunstar Paramedics from June 2015 to June 2016 and held various positions ranging from Field Training Officer, Critical Care Paramedic, and Assistant Supervisor over the past 10 years. His emergency medical services career has not only been clinical care but also focused on education and training. Jeremy holds many instructor ratings ranging from AHA to NAEMT, leads the simulation lab for the Pinellas County, and has been responsible for the successful clearing of Clinicians to the field. A certified Paramedic in the state of Florida, Jeremy has also served as an adjunct, non-credit faculty/CME Instructor at St. Petersburg College and has taught Continuing Education Classes through the Pinellas County Authority CME Program to EMTs, Paramedics and Nurses.

He was the proud recipient of the seventeenth annual 2016 American Ambulance Associations “Star of Life” award.

Jeremy is a native of Florida and a longtime resident of Pinellas County. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s degree and a graduate of EMS Leadership Academy, class of 2016.

His hobbies include playing classical guitar, jogging, movies, and photography.

Jim Pennington – Director of Information Technology

Jim Pennington is the Director of Information Technology for Sunstar Paramedics. He’s been in charge of the IT department since 2000 and before that held the position of System Status Supervisor and Data Analyst. Before joining Sunstar in 1994, Jim worked in the banking industry and was a certified law enforcement officer in Pinellas County.

Jim is a Microsoft Certified System Engineer and holds bachelor’s degrees in Finance and Management Information Systems from the University of South Florida.

A lifelong resident of Pinellas County, Jim enjoys spending time with his wife and photography. He is an active board member of a local non-profit photography group and served on his local homeowners’ association for 10 years and 5 years as president. Jim is also a graduate of Leadership Pinellas, class of 2012.

Brian Eells – Director of Communications

Brian Eells is the Director of Communications for Sunstar Paramedics. As the leader of Sunstar’s prestigious Communications Center, that has earned the title of being an Accredited Center of Excellence by the International Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch, Brian is responsible for maintaining superior emergency service standards.
He joined the Sunstar team in 2002. Throughout Brian’s time at Sunstar he has held various positions, including EMT, ACH EMT, Paramedic, System Status Controller, and Communications Supervisor.

Brian holds a Master of Business Administration Degree along with a Bachelor’s of Art in anthropology. He is a Certified County Paramedic and has been certified as an International Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatcher since 2003.

Brian has been married for 5 years and is a father of three. He spends his time enjoying family and friends, traveling, reading, and learning new things.

Barry Niemann – Director of Deployment & Analysis

Barry Niemann is the Director of Deployment and Analysis for Paramedics Plus. He joined Sunstar Paramedics as an EMT in 1982 and has worked as a paramedic, flight paramedic, adjunct instructor, Emergency Medical Dispatcher and communications center manager. Barry’s primary focus is to analyze ambulance call data by time of day, day of week and location to ensure the proper amount of resources are on duty to meet the needs of our customers throughout our organization.

Barry has been a guest speaker at several national conferences and has hosted EMS systems from all over the world. He holds an associate’s degree in emergency medical services from St. Petersburg College and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in human services.

Barry led the Sunstar Communications Center in receiving an Accreditation of Excellence from the National Academies of Dispatch in 2000. He is a 2010 graduate of Leadership Pinellas. Barry is a native of Pinellas County and enjoys the outdoors including tennis, softball and anything on the water.

Kathy Sterling – Director of Administrative Services

Ms. Kathy Sterling has served as the Director of Administrative Services for the Paramedics Plus Sunstar operation in Pinellas County, FL since August of 2016. Prior to this position, Mrs. Sterling worked as the Risk and Safety Manager at Sunstar Paramedics since 2011 and Executive Assistant since 2006. Before joining Sunstar Paramedics, Kathy worked as a licensed insurance sales agent for Allstate Financial.

Ms. Sterling is a 2015 graduate of Leadership St. Petersburg and continues to work with the Leadership St. Pete Planning Committee as the Finance Chair. In addition, she is a board member of the St. Petersburg Chamber Commerce’s Finance Committee and is the Treasurer of Plato Academy’s PTO Board of Directors.

Kathy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and an Associate in Science degree in Emergency Administration and Management. She moved to Pinellas County in 1987, and currently resides in St. Petersburg with her daughter Lily. She is a member of the Junior League of St. Petersburg and a 2015 graduate of Leadership St. Pete. Her hobbies include gardening, traveling and spending time on the water.

Leslie McAllister – Operations Manager

Leslie McAllister is the Operations Manager with Sunstar Paramedics. Leslie has held this position since 2012. She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Sunstar. In this role, she oversees employee welfare and is the chief customer point of contact.

Since moving to the area in 2007, she has served several key roles including working as a Paramedic before being promoted to become a Field Training Officer for both Sunstar and St. Petersburg College. Leslie has also held the position of Materials/Special Events Manager where she was responsible for the staff that stocked and supplied every ambulance in Sunstar’s fleet. From there, she rose to become an Assistant Supervisor and within the year was promoted to a Full Time Field Operations Supervisor.

Leslie is recognized for having an excellent rapport with the field staff and works to promote teamwork while also maintaining open communication channels to ensure key issues are addressed in the most timely and effective manner.

Leslie has been married to her husband William (Bill) since 1996. They met in high school and have been together ever since. They have 5 children together, 4 girls and a boy. They enjoy taking family vacations, spending time on their boat, and just spending time together.

Nicholas Berry – Logistics Manager

Nicholas Berry started his career as Logistics Manager with Sunstar Paramedics in 2016. Prior to joining the Sunstar team, Berry held positions in retail distribution, operations and logistics with Target for sixteen years.

Nicholas obtained his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and moved to Pinellas County, Fl. in 2015.

He currently resides in Oldsmar with his wife Amanda and young son Henry. In his free time, Nicholas enjoys spending time with family, traveling and attending Florida sporting events.

Charlene Cobb – Community Outreach Coordinator

Charlene Cobb began her career in emergency medical services in Sayville New York in 1980. She was hired by Sunstar Paramedics in 1989 and initially worked as a Paramedic before quickly advancing to level of Field Training Officer and then onto the role of Education Coordinator. Charlene now serves as Sunstar’s Community Outreach Coordinator and Public Information Officer.

Charlene is passionate about our community and is the Chairperson of the Pinellas County Safe kids Coalition. She also serves as Director At-Large on the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians Board of Directors and is an active member of the NAEMT Safety Board. Charlene also serves as a member of the international EMS Safety Foundation and was awarded the organization’s prestigious “Objective Safety Award” in 2008.  She often travels throughout the country speaking at seminars for other professionals focused on the implementation of best EMS safety practices, and is a frequent contributor to local and national publications on EMS and Public Safety.

Charlene was the proud recipient of the 1998 State of Florida’s “Paramedic of the Year” award. That same year she was also selected as the Pinellas County “Paramedic of the Year,” for her work on a language translation guide for fellow EMS personnel. In 2008 she received the State of Florida “Injury Prevention Award” for her work to promote child passenger safety. She was also selected in 2010 by Commissioner John Morroni to receive the “EMS Public Safety Award,” for her work to enhance ambulance safety.

Charlene is married and has two grown children. She has dedicated her career to the health and safety of the patients, the EMS workforce and the greater Pinellas County community. Her hobbies include travel, writing, volunteering and spending time with her family and her Sunstar co-workers.

Don Toomey – Staffing Recruiter

Don Toomey has served as the Staffing Recruiter for Sunstar Paramedics since 2006. Don works diligently to ensure that Sunstar maintains appropriate paramedic and EMT staffing levels. He does this by maintaining regular contact with area emergency medical services training facilities, developing marketing programs and coordinating advertising initiatives for Sunstar.

Don also coaches applicants on the hiring process and helps emergency medical personnel navigate the state of Florida’s rigorous accreditation process.

Prior to joining Sunstar, Don served in the executive director role for several not-for-profit trade associations. A primary function of his position was focused on membership growth. Don effectively increased membership in every organization he served, which is experience that now serves him well in his role as Sunstar’s employee recruiter.