Circle Of Life

Sheri Stigler

It’s very difficult for me to find words to adequately express the deep sense of joy and purpose I have found in bringing you the Lean In column over the past five years. Like all things in this life, however, there comes a time to step aside gracefully and help plant seeds for a new season.

For me, that time has come. I am pulling back the reins on some of the roles and responsibilities entrusted to me, handing them over to become revised and renewed. I have no doubt that very capable writers and storytellers will continue to fill this space with content that is meaningful, impactful, insightful and that helps all of you remember the “why” behind this incredibly important calling of public safety communications. As I have described in an earlier column … part of life is about embracing those “ch- ch- ch- changes.”

Change sometimes brings uncertainty and fearfulness. It is rarely a comfortable place to be! But it also ushers in new life and brings new opportunities. You may be aware of people in your organization who are in the process of transitioning. Maybe they are approaching retirement, moving into a new role or responsibility, or are brand new folks sitting at the console for the very first time. All of these scenarios require intentional change management; not only by the person experiencing the change, but also by everyone in the entire organization. It is everyone’s responsibility to help support the “lift” in order to effectively manage those changes.

President John F. Kennedy may have captured the importance of change management when he said, “Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

I, for one, seem to be energized by change. If any of you have had the opportunity to participate in the “StrengthsFinder” exercise, which helps you identify your top five strengths, it may offer clues to how you personally handle change. I was not at all surprised to learn that “organizer” was included in my top 5 strengths. Change doesn’t bother me … in fact, I live for it! Just ask my husband, who often comes home to find furniture rearranged.

Within our own dispatch center, however, we are in the midst of a change that is not coming easy for me. While I still have some time to serve in my position, our Communication Center Specialist, Kaye Kumbier, a friend and colleague who is near and dear to me, has announced she will be moving on to her next chapter in life at the end of this year. Though I know she hates any kind of attention or personal accolades (sorry, Kaye!), I want you all to “meet” her because I am certain you have similar individuals within your own centers as well—people who have serious, long-term investment in the health and advancement of the organization.

Kaye has spent 34 years of her life dedicated to the building and ultimate success of our communication center. She has been a devoted leader and an integral facilitator of all of our technical needs, e.g., hardware, software, CAD, protocol updates, and response plan maintenance and development. She has positively impacted every project, every change, and every problem we have ever faced as an organization since the day we opened our doors. She has never shied away from adversity and has always been willing to express her tell-it-like-it-is honesty.

As the days go on and we march toward her retirement date trying desperately to take in every last sip of knowledge and wisdom, one of my greatest fears is that we just won’t be able to adequately capture one of her greatest legacies—her incredible work ethic.

I remember the early days, the long nights. The fact that we still call her at Oh Dark Thirty when an officer gets locked out of a system or when a supervisor needs support. I remember when she kept a cot in her office just in case there was a snowstorm and she needed to stay overnight so that she was sure to be at work the next morning. I remember how she worked like a dog to make sure we were prepared for updates, upgrades, CAD implementations, and protocol changes. Kaye refuses to leave one minute early; she’s never one minute late.

She never counts any of the time she spends when dealing with all the calls for help she answers throughout the night. When she is on vacation, she’s really not. Her laptop computer goes with her EVERYWHERE. And that includes in the family camper and yes, even on the boat. Kaye has a strong sense of what the right thing to do is, and she does the right thing even when no one is watching. This, my friends, is called integrity, and it is the heart and soul of what we should be harvesting from her along with her other many tangible skills.

I will sorely miss our daily lunches and the numerous trips to her office next door to mine, for which I have beaten a path to over the years—a haven where I can vent, laugh, cry, complain, and use a few (or lot of) four-letter words if I need to. She has always been my safe place. We all need that, and I will miss that. I call Kaye outside of work on a fairly regular basis, and additionally tend to butt dial her quite frequently. I don’t see that changing much when she retires. In fact, it’ll probably get worse.

However, as sure as I have ever been about anything, I am certain that Kaye knows it is her time to move on and move aside. The look in her eyes, which now sparkle at the mention of her sweet baby granddaughter, is a priceless reminder of our true purpose in life and of our deserved respite after a long, successful, and distinguished career in public safety. Leave your laptop on the shore, my friend. Bask in the peace of a full night of uninterrupted sleep. Laugh a little when you hear about the latest malady affecting the center, and be content knowing that YOU no longer have to deal with it. But never forget, Kaye … never forget that you made a difference here. Thank you!

And so the Circle of Life continues. Fresh new perspective will find life in our center and also on this page.

Remember, we must always prepare and plant seeds for those who step into our footprints—ready to influence and breathe life into the generations to come. Godspeed, dear Kaye, and thank you, readers, for allowing me to be a small part of your dispatch journey these past five years. I hope you have gained some value in the truth and humor behind the words written.

A parting quote from Kat Graham:

“You make your mark by being true to who you are and letting that be your staple.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Sherri Stigler is the Training and Operations Manager for Waukesha County Communications, Wisconsin, USA, a combined dispatch center in southeastern Wisconsin, just west of Milwaukee, a land where the beer runs freely and locals proudly stack cheese on just about everything and call it great.

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