9-1-1 Telecommunicators honored at annual banquet

Discover why this Bureau honors the important job these dedicated-but-unseen emergency first-responders do every day …

Family, co-workers, and friends gather as the 2014 BOEC Awards and Dinner gets underway.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, from its origin in 1991, has been a time to celebrate the work done by staff members who work around the clock in 9-1-1 centers.

The Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) again held an awards ceremony and banquet, this time on April 5 at Madison’s Ballroom in SE Portland.

Volunteers who produced this year’s awards banquet include Mickie Reed, Kris DeVore, Kim Hunt, Chelsea Wynter, and – in front – Victoria Hellman.

“Tonight, we’re celebrating our people who come to work every day,” said Operations Supervisor (night shift) Kris DeVore. “This event highlights the special things our people do, the care they take, and the training and support they provide.”

Theirs is a unique calling, DeVore reflected, in comments to East Portland News. “It takes a unique person to work in our profession. When people call us, they’re often having the ‘worst day of their life’. By the nature of what we do in emergency services, we’re talking to people experiencing high-profile incidents that are affecting their lives in negative ways.”

Guests look over the many raffle items available, deciding the ones on which they’ll bid.

A fancy meal and great door prizes doesn’t come inexpensively, but taxpayers don’t pay a dime for the awards dinner, DeVore reminded. “Many companies and organizations help support this, and our employees do year-around fundraising with bake sales and selling T-shirts, for example. We’re proud this event is self-supporting.”

Four categories of awards were presented; DeVore introduced each of the 2014 recipients…

Telecommunicator of the Year

2014 Telecommunicator of the Year Karen Champ.

Karen Champ, a Senior Emergency Communications Dispatcher, has been with BOEC for eight years.

“I wanted to have a position where people approach me for help, and work behind the scenes,” Champ said, about why she chose BOEC for a career. “I wanted to be able to provide a valuable service, and not sell a product or service.

“More than that, I want to be proud of what I do, and provide a necessary and valuable service,” Champ added.

About her award, Champ commented, “It’s like a stamp of approval from my co-workers.  This includes the person who nominated me, and it is some validation and recognition for the work I do every day.”

Supervisor of the Year

2014 Supervisor of the Year Steve Mawdsley.

A BOEC veteran of nine years, Steve Mawdsley said he was humbled to be nominated, and more so to be selected for the honor.

“It is an unusual job choice,” Mawdsley said. “But I really enjoy the ‘community and family’ that I find among my co-workers.  They’re inviting, welcoming, and very supportive.”

Coach of the Year

2014 Coach of the Year Anne Hamburg.

Senior Dispatcher Anne Hamburg said two co-workers nominated her for the award.

“It’s wonderful to be appreciated; I guess I’m doing something right!” Hamburg smiled.  “I’ve been here for 26 years and have been a coach most of the time.”

This Powellhurst-Gilbert resident said she enjoys coaching for many reasons. “First, trainees ask a lot of questions, which helps me keep up on all of the latest policy and procedure changes.

“And, because I live in our response area – as do my family and friends – I want to make sure our people are well-trained when they respond to calls.”

Outstanding Team Member

2014 Outstanding Team Member Lisa St. Helen.

Her responsibility, as Assistant Operations Manager on the Operations Floor, Lisa St. Helen said, is substantial. “It’s a great challenge.”

In fact, after 19 years on the job, St. Helen said the daily challenges are why she enjoys coming to work every day. “The people on the Operations Floor, both the operators and dispatchers, have a very tough job sometimes.  The ability to go in there and try to make their job better, easier, more rewarding – it’s just something I like doing.”

With a buffet banquet, the awardees, co-workers, friends, and family celebrated the awards – and their unique jobs of serving their community in a most unique and necessary way.

Unlike at their often stress-filled jobs, on this one night each year the BOEC team members enjoy a casual evening of food and hospitality.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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