Dispatchers dedicated to helping each other
By Heather Graves
BROWN COUNTY – After more than two decades of being the calming voice on the other end of 911, long-time Brown County Public Safety Communications police and fire dispatcher Tina Wiegert recently hung up her headset, retiring after 23 years of service.
“I had an amazing career with City of Green Bay/Brown County and considered my profession extremely rewarding,” Wiegert said. “Some people may say it’s a stressful career and in truth, it can be. However, it is also so much more than that.”
Wiegert was hired by the Green Bay Police Department as a community service officer (CSO) in September 1996.
“Our communication center, at the time, was police dispatched,” Wiegert said. “CSOs answered phones (emergency and non-emergency lines) took (no suspect) phone reports and greeted the front window walk-in clients. It wasn’t until the merge with Brown County in 2003 that civilian (non-sworn officers) dispatch transpired. We became an all-civilian dispatched county and remains that way to current date.”
Wiegert said the support she received from other dispatchers and training staff helped her succeed in a job she loved.
“It is the extensive training and resources provided that enables dispatchers to assist each call coming in,” Wiegert said. “The knowledge that is passed down from veteran to new hires, the time taken by each person in the room to keep each tele-communicator on target, to provide exceptional service to every call – it is the smooth operation of check and balances, not just on each call, but more importantly with the emotions of the dispatcher as the high priority calls come in. It is a small family watching each other.”
As a dispatcher, Wiegert saved lives and put people at ease when they were face-to-face with danger.
“I took a call from an 81-year-old female flying a plane with an 80-year-old pilot who was having a medical condition, the caller was not a pilot,” Wiegert said. “My years of experience assisted in getting the right people with her and resulted in a safe landing of the plane.”
When she applied for the job, Wiegert never imagined she’d still be wearing the headset 23 years later.
“I didn’t realize at the time I applied, that this job was for me,” Wiegert said. “I applied because of the rate of pay, stability of the pay and the benefits offered. It wasn’t until just over a year of employment did I realized how perfectly this career fit me.”
The ever-changing work was a perfect fit for Wiegert’s passion for helping others.
“I enjoy the unknown, the multi-tasking, fast-paced and quick thinking requirements of the job,” Wiegert said. “I think the caregiver in me made me a great asset to the community and the departments I dispatched with. After 23 years of service I still loved the job. That says something for the fit I think.”
Wiegert said the most difficult part of the job was learning the trade.
“Although we have extensive training for the common and maybe a bit more uncommon calls, there is not a book on every call you may encounter,” Wiegert said. “Depending on knowledge and years of service can certainly make your calls easier or more difficult. Learning the career takes time. Again, veterans in the room are great resources for this situation.”
Mentor still going strong
Wiegert said she owes a lot to her first trainer Rhonda Manning.
“She was a great trainer and gave me confidence to continue the career even when I had doubts, and I’ve been grateful to her since,” Wiegert said.
Manning is also celebrating an impressive milestone. Just days after Wiegert retired, Manning celebrated 30 years as a dispatcher.
Manning was hired by the Green Bay Police Department in July 1989, also as a community service officer.
“What I like most about being a dispatcher is knowing you can make a difference. Whether talking someone through CPR or comforting them during the worst day of their life,” Manning said. “ For the officers and firemen doing your best to get them information so they are safe, they are my family and my first priority.”
Manning agrees there are many aspects of the job and dispatchers have to learn to prioritize.
“Not every call is the same and can change at any time,” Manning said.
Manning said two distinct calls stick out to her over the last three decades.
“In 2008, one of my sons – who was in his first year of college – passed out at home from low blood sugar,” Manning said. “His girlfriend found him and called me at work. So I entered the call and dispatched rescue to my own home knowing the worst and hoping for the best. The other distinct memory was Aug. 13, 2006 – that’s the day we lost firefighter Arnie Wolfe.”
Manning said with both calls she had to keep her composure and still do her job because everyone was counting on her.
“I think this is the job for me because I love the high pace and multi-tasking,” Manning said. “I like knowing I could make a difference in someone’s life.”
Brown County Public Safety Communications employs more than 60 dispatchers and receives thousands of calls each year.