Experienced pro hired to aid 911 effort

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Barry County E-911 Emergency Services Board has hired an experienced professional to assist the board in overseeing creation of a countywide 911 system.

On Monday night, Bill Shiveley, board chairman, announced that Pat Leighter, ENP, had accepted the job offer made by the board last week. Leighter currently serves as director of the Benton County E-911 system, a position she's held since 2003.

Shiveley said Leighter and her husband will be moving to the Monett area near the end of January, and she will begin her job as Barry County E-911 director on Feb. 1.

In her role as Benton County E-911 director, Leighter was responsible for implementation of a new 911 service to serve the entire county, which is located in central Missouri.

This process included mapping the roads and structures located within the county, assigning unique house numbers and re-naming roads, purchasing new equipment and helping design and staff the 911 center. Leighter also administered a staff that grew from six dispatchers to 16 full-time employees.

Leighter said the first challenge faced by herself and the E-911 board is mapping the emergency service area.

"The first hurdle will be mapping," Leighter said. "You have to drive every little road and stop before each habitable structure. It's a very time consuming process."

Although the process of establishing a new countywide 911 system is a formidable task, Leighter said she truly enjoys the challenge.

"This has been one of the most rewarding things I've done in my life," Leighter said. "It's so much of a challenge, and it's exciting to build something from the beginning.

"I miss the excitement of putting a system together, and if I can provide help to Barry County, I'm fortunate to do so," Leighter said.

Leighter said she's also excited to work with members of the E-911 board, which include Shiveley, Ron Shook, Harold Schelin, Leonard Witt, Mick Epperly, Kelli Banks and Bob Lombard.

"I'm encouraged by the people I'm going to work for," Leighter said. "I was very impressed with them during the interview process."

It was Leighter's expertise and experience that impressed members of the E-911 board.

"Pat has all the qualifications we were looking for," said Shiveley. "When she went to work for Benton County, they were in just about the same place as we are here. We are hoping to draw from her knowledge."

Leighter is a certified ENP, which stands for Emergency Numbering Professional. This is a title granted to individuals who have served in an emergency communications management or supervisory position for at least three years and passed a comprehensive national test.

Leighter is also a member of NENA, the National Emergency Numbering Association. It is through this professional association that Leighter said she found out about the job opportunity in Barry County.

"No one can be an expert in every field that will be associated with the completion of this project," Leighter said. "I will rely heavily on my contacts within NENA for their expertise in specific areas."

Before serving as 911 director in Benton County, Leighter served for five years as communications director commander for the Johnson County Sheriff's Office in Warrensburg. She also was a dispatch supervisor for Henry County's 911 system in Clinton for six years.

Leighter and her husband have three grown children and nine grandchildren. The couple are excited to make the move to Barry County.

"Down there is like heaven," Leighter said. "We love Barry County and love its proximity to Roaring River State Park and the Arkansas Ozarks. My husband is a year from retirement, and he can't wait to retire there. And I am so looking forward to living in Barry County."

Leighter will be working out of a temporary 911 office, which will be located in the former public administrator's office in the first floor of the Barry County Courthouse.

The E-911 Board voted to accept the offer made by the Barry County Commission to allow the board to use the office rent free until a permanent office was built. The county will also be paying for utilities and providing furniture for the office. The E-911 board will be purchasing a computer, fax, copier and phone for the office.

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