Emergency ‘Telecommunicators’ celebrated at annual dinner

Find out who was honored by their peers this year, and learn more about those who work at the 9-1-1 Center in outer East Portland …

Some of the Employee Recognition Committee volunteers – Chelsea Wynter, Monique Meyer, Holly Campbell, Mickie Reed, and Kris Devore; (seated) as well as Kim Hunt and Victoria Hellman – gather at the check-in desk.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Near where the Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods converge, operators and supervisors come to work every day to save lives and property as they “take a desk” in the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC).

But, many BOEC folks traveled far from that place of work, on April 12, to attend the annual Telecommunicator Awards Banquet, this year held at McMenamins Kennedy School in North Portland.

BOEC employees meet and greet one another, in the relaxed atmosphere of their annual awards dinner.

“In keeping with National Telecommunicators Week, we gather to honor people for the work they’ve done during the past year,” explained BOEC Public Information Officer (PIO) and Outreach Coordinator Kris DeVore.

“This is an opportunity for us to take time away from the Bureau to socialize, and to reflect on the services we provide to our community,” DeVore told East Portland News. “It’s put on by our Employee Recognition Committee, and is totally funded by our employees and sponsors.”

Attendees use raffle tickets to “bid” on the prizes donated by employees and sponsors.

This annual event is important to the mission of the Bureau, DeVore said, because it provides a “pause” from what can be a stress-filled job. “It takes a special person to come in every day and do this kind of work, even though we all ‘signed up’ for our jobs.

“And this evening, we’ll be celebrating folks who are recognized for going ‘above and beyond’ what they’re expected to do,” DeVore added.

The participants serve themselves at the buffet tables, laden with Italian delicacies.

The staff laid out an Italian-themed dinner, with salads and entrees including spaghetti squash with hearty meat sauce and cheese, baked rigatoni, and four-cheese penne pasta – while celebrants purchased and “voted on” raffle prizes that lined the room.

After dinner, this year’s BOEC award winners were announced.

BOEC ‘Coach of the Year’

Craig Meade is named BOEC ‘Coach of the Year’.

“Coach of the Year” Craig Meade said he’s been working at BOEC for nine years.

“In our Bureau, being a ‘coach’ helps to make sure we are operationally ready for the future,” Meade said. “If we don’t train new 9-1-1 operators, and get them ready as fast as people are retiring, we cannot keep up with the population increase of the city. It is an important task.”

The best part of his job, Meade said, is “participating in the adult learning process. It is fun to watch ideas take root, and people gain in competency.”

BOEC ‘Supervisor of the Year’

Mickie Reed shows her award as 2015 BOEC ‘Supervisor of the Year’.

The criteria for being named the Bureau’s ‘Supervisor of the Year’ includes “encouraging the strengths and skills in each employee, to assist in achieving each dispatcher’s ‘personal best’.” According to her co-workers, ten-year employee Mickie Reed surpassed the requirements of her position.

“The best thing about my job is the people who I work with every day,” Reed commented. “They are incredible people. They’re so good at taking calls on the telephone and dealing with the public. It’s so amazing to see them do their work every single day. I’m glad that I’m there to be able to support them.

“In a way, ours is a somewhat thankless job,” Reed said. “Part of what I do is to constantly reassure them that they are doing well, praise their successes, and help them learn from the difficult situations they come across.”

BOEC ‘Director’s Award’

Jacquie Anke wasn’t yet aware that she’d soon be presented with the BOEC “Director’s Award”, when this photo was taken.

A former BOEC PIO, Jacquie Anke, came to her last Bureau banquet as an employee, before her retirement later this year. Because no one other than a select few knew she’d be presented the “Director’s Award” later that evening, we, too, kept it a secret and didn’t interview her.

Those at the banquet said Anke was delighted and surprised to receive the award. The inscription read:

To Jacquie Anke, in grateful appreciation and distinguished recognition of your daily practice of competitions, integrity, respect, responsibility, teamwork and compassion.”

BOEC ‘Telecommunicator of the Year’

This year’s BOEC “Telecommunicator of the Year”, Elizabeth Strode, shows her award.

Senior Emergency Communications Dispatcher Elizabeth Strode was selected as the Bureau’s “Telecommunicator of the Year”.

Strode, a ten-year employee of BOEC, talked about her work at the Bureau. “One of the things I value about this work is that it’s completely altruistic. And, we help everybody no matter what, no matter who or where they are. It is really rewarding to me to be able to help anyone who needs it.”

The best thing about being a 9-1-1 operator and dispatcher is helping people, Strode reflected. “Working here is a great vantage point, to see the entire spectrum of humanity. Myself, my co-workers, and other responders interact with people on the best and the worst day of their lives. Being able to help is really satisfying.”

Not available at the event was the “Outstanding Team Member of the Year”, Suzanne Hannam.

The Bureau also issued “Lifesaver”, “Critical Incident”, and “Stork” awards – the last being to workers who provide direction to callers who give birth prior to the arrival of medical responders.

We agree: The work of this agency is worth celebrating. The BOEC carries the motto, “Dial 911 – Save a Life, Report a Fire, Stop a Crime”.

© 2015 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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