From Engineer to Officer, Ortega finds his calling at JPS

September 28th, 2018

If you’ve visited the JPS Health Network main campus at any point over the past 18 years, there’s a good chance you’ve met Ramon Ortega.

A public service officer, Ortega has been stationed outside the hospital’s main entrance since 2000, where he is known for greeting patients, visitors and team members with a hearty “good morning” as they arrive, rain or shine. He’s such a familiar face and an iconic figure that a giant banner with a photo of him talking into his radio hangs on the front of the hospital.

Ramon Ortega

Ramon Ortega

“This is the perfect job for me,” Ortega said. “What it really comes down to is that I am a people person -- and I get to talk to and help people all day long. What could be a better fit than that?”

Ortega was working as an engineer 30 years ago, designing joints that connected the steel skeletons of skyscrapers rising over Dallas, when his boss came to work one day and abruptly informed the staff that he’d filed for bankruptcy and the business was closed, effective immediately.

Ramon tried to find a similar role elsewhere. But engineering jobs were tough to find in the days following the Black Monday stock market crash in 1987 because the demand for new construction evaporated. Ortega needed to find a way to support his family. So, he forgot about his passion for designing buildings and reported for work at JPS as a housekeeper.

“I worked in housekeeping for a year and a half or so, then I moved to laundry for three years and I worked for four years or so in registration,” Ortega, 62, said. “I was back working in laundry as superintendent when I decided I was going to try something else, so I turned in my notice.”

When the police chief at the time got word that a valuable, veteran employee was about to leave the JPS team, he asked Ortega if he would be consider staying on in a new role -- working as a public service officer. It was an intriguing opportunity the father of three couldn’t pass up.

Current Police Department Executive Director and Chief Del Fisher said adding Ortiz to the department was a great idea because of his formidable people skills. Fisher said Ramon has done an amazing job for patients, visitors and colleagues at JPS during his three decades with the health network and his 20 years with the police.

“He’s easily the most recognizable face of the Police Department,” Fisher said. “He’s widely known for his friendly, outgoing demeanor and it’s phenomenal to watch him work out on the front parking lot because he’s such an excellent problem solver.”

The key to doing his job well, according to Ortega, is to be friendly while remaining vigilant. While he’s greeting visitors, offering directions, making sure traffic keeps moving and going about his other routine tasks, his eyes are constantly moving, scanning the area for any potential safety issues or for any people in need of assistance.

He’s quick to retrieve a wheelchair for patients who need assistance getting into the building and is constantly directing traffic to keep things moving so people dropped off at the front door can get to their appointments on time.

Ortega loves his current job so much, he couldn’t imagine returning to work designing buildings.

“I missed working as an engineer for a while,” Ortega said. “But what I’m doing now is perfect for me. It’s part public service officer, but it’s also part public relations ambassador. If I can help people in some way, that’s what makes me feel good and what makes me have a good day.”

Fisher said Ortega is a great example for his JPS team members.

“I wish I had a hundred more just like him,” Fisher said. “He does a great job and I would be hard pressed to think of a time when I’ve seen him without a smile on his face.”

When he’s not working, Ortega loves to take his wife, Silvia, on dates to eat Chinese food and go to the movie theater. He also loves to spend time playing with his seven grandchildren. But he enjoys his job so much that Fisher said he’s always offering to take on additional assignments.

While he has been on the job at JPS for 30 years, Ortega said he hasn’t even entertained thoughts about retirement or about finding time for a hobby.

“Why would I want to do anything else?” Ortega asked. “I enjoy being here. It’s like family. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I didn’t come here every day. When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work.”

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