She has been involved in law enforcement in one capacity or another since 1980 and now heads up the county’s 911 office.
Janice Jennings, or as most know her ‘Tutti,’ has been on the job as the Scott County 911 Director for five months during which she has handle some difficult situations.
Her first job as a dispatcher at the young age of 18 in 1980 is vastly different than today’s highly electronic and technical central dispatch office. Her years of experience in law enforcement and attention to professionalism remain at the core of her belief system.
“Every call we take is serious,” Jennings said. “When you answer the phone here, you never take anything for granted and we always try to treat the caller with kindness and respect.”
When she first started, Jennings noted they looked up vehicle license plates in a large bound binder. With information available literally at their fingertips, today’s dispatchers have a technologic luxury that she didn’t in the early days but it’s something she wouldn’t have changed.
Training classes only prepare you for so much and Jennings was grateful to have excellent “teachers” on staff to give her the additional real world on-the-job training.
“We were located in a corner in an office in the sheriff’s office and we didn’t have any computers at all,” she noted.
Jennings worked until the birth of her second child in 1986 and stayed home a few years before she returned to the dispatch office in 1992 when her brother, Jerry Broadwater, was elected as Sheriff of Scott County.
“I was ready to go back to work,” she recalled. “This is the type of job that once it’s in your blood, the desire to do the job never leaves.”
At that same time, the Scott County Board of Supervisors agreed to pay for two additional dispatchers as the workload as continued to increase. In 1996, Jennings was promoted to supervisor of the dispatchers and was responsible for scheduling, training, state audits and other administrative duties.
She continued in the dispatch office until 2005 when county officials were ready to implement countywide 911. Jennings accepted a new job as a corrections officer at the Southwest Regional Jail in Duffield, a position that provided her with better benefits and salary.
“I hated to leave but I decided it was a better monetary offer there,” Jennings said. “I wanted to have a little adventure. I have only held two jobs during my adult career.”
She was responsible for supervising female inmates, court patrol, booking, working on computer log-in and daily activities. Jennings also kept her Virginia Criminal Investigation Network certification up-to-date and earned her CPR/First Aid designation.
“When the job came open up here, I applied and I wanted to come back home,” Jennings said. “So now I am back with people that I worked with before. A lot of changes have occurred since I was here – new faces, new technology and a new center.”
She has already finished 17 online classes through the Southwest Virginia Law Enforcement Academy and earned her re-certifications. In June, she heads to Charlotte, N.C. for a certification class for specifically to become a certified 911 manager.
“I work with a great bunch of people,” Jennings added. “Everyone is so supportive and I appreciate the great job that each one does. It was very welcome when I came on board. I couldn’t ask for any better people to work with. And that’s what it is all about. It isn’t about me – it’s about teamwork.”
It takes a special type of personality to handle the stress and pressure associated with central dispatch. Jennings notes that persons have to have a sense of humor to be able to handle some of the unusual situations that arise every day.
“Once you have the skill to handle 911 calls, you’ll always have it,” she explained. “It’s like riding a bicycle. Once you learn the knowledge, you will never forget it.”
Her new job also entails working with the county’s GIS, mapping and address system.
“Dustin [Cagle] will be helping on the GIS side,” Jennings said. “Doris [Dougherty] and I will be going out to GPS houses. Jack [Troutman] will be helping me with the signs.”
A closet in her office contains a bag filled with boots, pants, sweatshirts and gear ready for her to go at a moment’s notice. Jennings wants to be prepared for any emergency situation and will be on-the-job in those cases.
Her first big project is the placement of a radio tower on Powell Mountain to ensure better radio coverage in the Duffield area. Although the project has been ongoing for several years, it has hit several bumps along the road.
Jennings is hopeful that the Virginia Department of Transportation will allow a tower to be built on a site they own in that area to be used specifically for emergency services. She vows to have the project started by summer.
She also plans to begin educational programs through local schools to increase public awareness of the importance of emergency services.
For now, Jennings is happy to be closer home overseeing a staff of 12 dispatchers and three GIS employees.
“I am so thankful to be back home and grateful to be here,” she said. “I am so happy to come to work every day and I love being here.”