911 director has mixed feelings about leaving

January 9, 2013

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PENTWATER — Rich Feole has bittersweet feelings about leaving his job as director of Mason-Oceana 911. He has the first dispatcher hired at the facility when it opened in 1995. He has gone through several positions there, spending the last 7 as its director.
In late December Feole, 47, announced he had accepted a position as deputy director of Calhoun County 911.
“I didn’t take this decision lightly,” he said. “There have been many dispatch director positions available in Michigan in the last year and non seemed to fit. This one fits, though. I know the director really well. He and I have worked together on the board of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.
“This new position will be overseeing the day to day operations rather than making all the decisions I do now as director. That part is appealing.”
His decision was just as much personal as it was professional, though.
“I have family that area. Two of my stepdaughters live there and I have three grandchildren there. As the grandchildren get older and get more involved with activities, my wife and I want to be there. We want to see them every week, not just a few times a year.”
Rich’s wife, Kay Feole, is a supervisor at Mason-Oceana 911. She too is one of the original employees. Kay will soon be eligible for retirement and will leave her position once that happens.
Rich said he is looking forward to the new challenge.
“It’s a larger center. The population it covers is 133,000 for one county while we have less than 60,000 in two counties. It will be a change of pace.
“I feel like Mason-Oceana is in a really good position right now. We have gone through some financial challenges and are in the clear. I feel like I am not leaving the center in a time when it is struggling.
“We have a great staff here with little turnover. In fact, seven of the 10 original employees still work here. Their experience will certainly help the transition to a new director be smooth. That would be my advice to my replacement, to listen to the current employees.”

Rich’s first day at his new job is Jan. 28.
Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett is chairman of the 911 board. Barnett said the board is currently seeking a replacement for Feole. He said it is considering hiring a director to serve in the interim. It is likely this interim director will be someone not currently connected with the 911 center, which would allow for the board to be more objective if a current employee applies for the position.
Feole will also be involved with hiring his replacement.
Since Mason and Oceana counties switched to 911 in 1995, there have been a lot of changes in dispatching
“The only thing that has stayed the same is people use a phone to call 911 and we use a radio to dispatch, everything else has changed so much. But, I think our center has rolled with those changes very well. We’ve accepted new technologies. Even on a tight budget we have been able to maintain a good center. I think this area has a lot to be proud of. Mason and Oceana counties did well when they decided to combine the dispatching.”

Story and photo by Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

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