Deschutes County opens 911 director search

Seventeen department heads have come and gone over 20 years

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

Published May 2, 2014 at 12:01AM

Deschutes County has reopened its search for a 911 Service District director, nearly a year after the last district head abruptly stepped down.

It’s a vacancy that has long dogged the county, with 17 directors coming and going over the past 20 years.

Administrators hope to find a longer-term hire to bring stability to the department, which has also struggled with staff shortages and high turnover rates for years.

Two senior managers and longtime 911 employees have run the department on an interim basis since June.

But the county posted a job opening on its personnel page for the director position this week. It’s the highest-paying county job currently available, with a yearly salary between $82,536 and $110,871.

“There is nothing special about the timing of it coming out now,” said Deschutes County Deputy Administrator Erik Kropp, who often heads up high-level job recruitments. “I wanted to open it earlier, but was busy with our other department head recruitments.”

In the past year, the county has hired a new administrator, community development director, personnel manager and finance director, as well as a new county legal counsel and health director in the last month.

But the 911 department, which coordinates emergency responses among police, fire and medical staff, seems to be the most difficult to fill. Robert Poirier ran the department from October 2010 until last June, when he announced he would step down to spend more time with family. The previous director was put on leave amid a personnel investigation and later reassigned.

This week’s job post says the county hopes to review applications in early June and potentially interview candidates at the end of the month.

But Kropp said there’s no specific time frame to make the hire.

The 911 department’s challenges go beyond the leadership. Staffing shortages have dispatchers working four, 12-hour shifts each week. They typically take 160 to 200 calls a day, or one call every four minutes for 12 hours.

It’s an extremely stressful job that often involves working with people in crisis, said Megan Craig, 911 training coordinator.

The county authorized four new dispatcher positions in March, and the staffers were hired shortly after. But getting them up to speed and able to work independently takes six to eight months. And two of the four initial hires backed out, Craig said. That means two of the new staffers won’t be able to help ease the crunch until October or November, and the others probably won’t be ready until early next year.

“We do a required information session to educate people on the type of job they are signing up for, in addition to having them sit along with a dispatcher,” Craig said. “But we still end up having people resign after they start because they realize that it is not the right fit for them.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com