New director up and running

Communications center finally under command of chief

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— Two days on the job and Routt County's new communications director is still here, joked the county commissioners as they introduced the woman who will run the 911 center.

Janice Ling, who hails from Florida, will be the fifth communications director in five years.

The county has been without a 911 chief since September of last year and dispatchers were elated to have her on board.

"She seems to be very confident and a strong leader," said Karie Taylor, one of the dispatchers who has been working 12-hour shifts under an employee shortage.

"We're excited to have her here. Sounds like she's well suited for the job."

Ling has been a business manager, a 911 director and police officer and investigator.

She started Friday and is equally impressed with the communications staff.

"The people who man that communications center are heroes and the public needs to know that," Ling said during a media briefing at the county commissioners' hearing room.

Ling rattled off the volunteer work that her new employees manage to fit into their schedule, including work for the volunteer fire departments, EMT, shelters and victim advocacy groups.

"These people have devoted their lives to helping others," Ling said.

From what little she saw during her first few days, Ling said she doesn't see a lot that needs to be changed.

"They've done excellent, especially considering they've been without a director," Ling said.

The communications center has been run by supervisors Sharon Cleaver and Lori McCarty, along with Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak and Emergency Manager Chuck Vale.

"Nancy was very helpful, helping with different issues that have gone on," Cleaver said.

But now that a professional is on the job, Cleaver and her colleagues are a lot happier.

"As far as Lori (McCarty) and I are concerned, it's a great relief. Now we can do our job," Cleaver said.

Ling has her work cut out for her. Retention of employees is always a problem with 911 centers and there are currently two openings at the center. Dispatchers have been forced to work 12-hour shifts instead of the usual 10-hour shifts.

But the former Florida police officer was hired in part because of the role she played in reducing turnover at a communications center in her home county.

Ling explained that it takes nine months of interviews, testing and training just to get someone on the job. Then the dispatchers have to deal with crises every day, which "compounds itself by dealing with the public, firefighters, police and everyone else."

"By the end of that shift, they're pretty well beat up emotionally," Ling said.

"I need to make it a more pleasant atmosphere."

Ling said she hopes to be joined by her husband at the end of May.

Tom Ling, a police chief in Oak Hill, Fla., near Daytona Beach, is applying for the position of police chief in Oak Creek.

Janice Ling said she believes her husband will be interviewed by phone sometime in the next few weeks.

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