Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Hidden Heroes of 911 honored at County Commissioners meeting

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

Porter County’s 911 dispatch workers rarely get any face time with the people they assist in an emergency, even when it means saving a life.

But the job is not always thankless, at least not this week.

County E-911 Communications Director John Jokantas recognized his team of dispatchers publicly at Tuesday’s County Commissioners meeting in celebration of National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week, which began Sunday, April 14 and runs through Saturday, April 20.

“Everyone can see a police car, a fire truck and an ambulance; our 911 telecommunicators are the hidden heroes and in a lot of cases the first time responder,” Jokantas said.

On staff are “a dedicated group” of 52 full and part-time employees who work weekends, holidays, birthdays and anniversaries and “want to do nothing more than help the visitors and citizens of Porter County in their time of need,” Jokantas added.

Jokantas said his department has seen “constant change” in the last two years with the technology and radio systems changes, proving the work difficult, and yet continue to improve customer service and response times.

Service certificates were presented to workers who have completed five years of service with Porter County 911 or will have completed five years in the next few months. They are Nancy Brooks, Jenny Buczkowsi, Lisa Gaston and Lindsey Lloyd who were formerly Valparaiso Police telecommunicators.

Others five-year honorees included Marissa Stalbaum, Christina Valpatic, and Jeannie Williams.

For ten years, Scott Valpatic has been the center’s mapping and GPS coordinator.

As of May, Pam Nystrom will have been a dispatcher for 15 years.

While thanking the Commissioners for their support over the years, Nystrom took the opportunity to express her admiration of the dispatchers in Boston during Monday afternoon’s bomb attacks.

“I can’t even imagine the volume of calls they have had,” Nystrom said. “My heart goes out to the victims and to all the emergency responders. I’ve thought about them all day.”

At the start of their meeting, the commissioners observed a moment of silence for those affected by the tragedy.

Meanwhile, Jokantas announced the retirement of 911 shift supervisor Kathy Sepiol who had been a telecommunicator with the sheriff’s department since 1986. Before then, Sepiol worked in the county auditor’s office starting in 1977, bringing her years of service in Porter County government to 35.

But Sepiol has not officially retired from public service yet. She said she has started working part-time at the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center and will continue helping out a few hours a week at the 911 center.

Sepiol was honored with a plaque and also a copy of an employee evaluation she did of Jokantas in 2000 when he started out as a telecommunicator for the sheriff. Jokantas lightly noted his one-time supervisor gave him a “needs improvement” for telephone etiquette.

Jokantas said this is the second year in a row he has had a former supervisor retire. Mary Pearson retired in February 2012 after 23 years of service. Both have become his role models.

“It is a huge motivator to me to know that they were able to stand the test of time in our profession,” he said.

 

Posted 4/18/2013