WENATCHEE — The executive director of the RiverCom 911 dispatch center, Lowell Porter, will retire in November after completing his two-year commitment.
The RiverCom administrative board is accepting applications for a new director until April 6. Porter said he will train the new executive director before he leaves.
“That way it is a good hand off, rather than a sink or swim,” Porter said.
The public multi-jurisdiction dispatch center operates emergency and non-emergency 911 calls 24/7 for 23 law, fire, and emergency medical services, safety agencies across Chelan and Douglas counties.
Porter said a new director will need a “unique skill set” to be successful in the role.
“For someone to be successful, (he or she) really needs to understand public safety in the field... law, fire, EMS,” Porter said. “But you also need to understand the unique nature of the 911 business… how does it run, what are all the requirements?”
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Porter moved to Wenatchee from Gig Harbor in January 2021 with his wife, Julie Porter, after retiring as the director of emergency management for Pierce County after seven years.
He said they chose Wenatchee to retire because they were fond of North Central Washington.
But Porter wouldn’t stay retired for very long. Soon after he arrived he was asked by the RiverCom administrative board to lead the center for two years, starting in November 2021.
Porter has decades of experience in emergency management. He served as director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission for eight years and in the Washington State Patrol for 25 years, with one year as WSP chief under his belt.
He said he made the decision to step out of retirement as a way to support the community of his new home.
“I live here. I want to be a part of the community and contribute, and I have a unique skill set from experience,” Porter said.
East Wenatchee Mayor Jerrilea Crawford, who is the deputy chair of the RiverCom administrative board, said Porter “came in doing what he needed to do.”
“I think he had a good impact on the organization. He helped the organization to be more efficient,” Crawford said.
When asked about his achievements during his short time as executive director, Porter said the 2022 Achievement Report proved he made an impact on the center.
“We had, in my opinion, significant organizational success,” Porter said.
Some of the items in the report were:
- Hiring a new training coordinator.
- Redesigning the training curriculum.
- Hiring and training three new 911 dispatchers.
- Rehiring two former dispatchers.
- Saving seven people and two newborns delivered with the help of dispatchers.
The operating budget for the 2022 year was around $20 million and the budget for the 2023 year is around $17 million. Porter said the technological upgrades to information technology, communication, and geographic information systems saved the center money for the 2023 budget.
“Because of the investments we’ve made, we were able to decrease our operating budget by 14%,” Porter said.
Porter said saving money showed financial stewardship and accountability to the board and to the public.
However, he said he didn’t take all the credit.
“I’m amazed at what we were able to do,” Porter said. “And it’s not just me. I had a part of ‘Here’s the plan, here’s the road map’ kind of steering, but everyone here stepped up and they did a lot.”
Porter added the dispatch crew was amazing and provided quality work.
“I can’t say enough how much I am impressed with them (the dispatchers) he said. “I’m just glad that I’m in a position to help them.”
Porter said his goal is to finish well.
After he retires for the second time, Porter said he plans to spend more time with his wife, five adult children and 14 grandchildren.