911 Dispatcher retires after 40 years of service

Jean Stribling receives a Certificate of Recognition for 37 years of service as dispatcher and clerk for the Shenandoah Police Department during the  Shenandoah City Council meeting Dec.17.

After 40 years of service to the community, Shenandoah Police Department dispatcher and clerk Jean Stribling retired Dec. 12.

Stribling grew up and graduated from Stanton and attended one year at Iowa Western Community College before accepting a dispatcher job for Montgomery County in 1979.

Three years later, in November 1982, she was hired as dispatcher and clerk for the Shenandoah Police Department. Dick Hunt was the chief of police at that time and Stribling said she worked for seven different police chiefs during her career in Shenandoah.

Stribling had planned to be a social worker before starting her career as a 911 dispatcher. She said working as a 911 dispatcher also allowed her to help people, whether it was during a car accident, fire, medical emergency or somebody walking into the station.

“I knew I was helping people, and I always thought that was my calling,” said Stribling “I am a good listener, and sometimes that’s all people really needed was to talk to somebody.”

Stribling said she would experience the same adrenaline rush during an emergency that an officer on the scene would.

“A lot of people think that we’re just secretaries there, but were not,” said Stribling.

She explained PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) affects 911 dispatchers the same as if they were on the scene. She said the officers would come back after a 911 call, and as a team, they would talk through what happened. They would look at what went smoothly and what they needed to improve on.

“That was one thing with dispatch,” said Stribling, “you never knew how the story ended. You always knew how it started but you never know how it ends.”

She said having the officers come back to the station to talk gave her that ending.

“We’re just a big team, and we work together and dispatch is a big part of that,” said Stribling.

Stribling and her husband Steve of 28 years always agreed they wouldn’t bring work home. Having co-workers to

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talk through the situations helped.

Stribling said some of the toughest calls over the years were when a child was hurt.

“I’ve had mothers screaming at me because their kids weren’t breathing, and I’ve had kids in car wrecks,” said Stribling.

Stribling said she helped an elderly woman perform CPR on her husband and also assisted in delivering a baby all over the phone.

Stribling has seen a lot of changes with procedures, equipment and going from radio to digital during her career. When she first started in Shenandoah, she was dispatching for the western half of Page County and into Fremont County.

One of Stribling’s fondest memories was helping with Operation Blessing, along with her husband for over 30 years. Operation Blessing is donated gifts intended for children in need.

Jean and Steve have two daughters Jena and Jamie and three grandchildren. She plans to spend some of her time during retirement helping watch the grandkids.

Stribling said she worked with a great group of people and shared many laughs.

“I’m going to miss the people that I worked with,” said Stribling.

Before leaving the station on her last day, she told them not to break her coffee cup.

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