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updated: 3/28/2014 6:26 PM

Vernon Hills dispatcher is first to retire from that position

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  • Fran Morris retired Friday after 26 years of working as a dispatcher in Vernon Hills.

       Fran Morris retired Friday after 26 years of working as a dispatcher in Vernon Hills.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Fran Morris retired Friday after 26 years of working as a dispatcher in Vernon Hills.

       Fran Morris retired Friday after 26 years of working as a dispatcher in Vernon Hills.
    Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 

When Fran Morris joined the Vernon Hills police department as a dispatcher in early 1988, the operations center was housed with public works at its headquarters off Butterfield Road.

"It was a one-counsel thing, about the size of two desks," said Kim Christenson, department spokesman.

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Since then, the village population has doubled, the commercial area in town has greatly expanded and the number of calls for service has skyrocketed to about 100,000 per year.

Technology also has progressed by light years, and 13 full-time telecommunicators now handle the emergency calls for Vernon Hills, Libertyville and Lincolnshire from a modern self-contained center at 740 Lakeview Parkway next to the police department on Lakeview Drive.

One constant amid the changes has been Morris, 62, a Mundelein resident, who handled her last call Friday. She is the first telecommunicator to retire from the position in what can be considered a nod to a maturing department,

"Within a year of starting here, I was the senior dispatcher. Everybody else just left," she said. "I was raising four kids. It was convenient and I enjoyed the work."

Morris said several calls have stood out over the years, including one from Ronald Stolberg, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter for killing his wife, Rachel, in their home in July 2011.

"He said, `Rachel's dead' and hung up. Kind of sing-songy," Morris recalled.

Morris had dispatched police at what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital for 11 years, but had moved to a part-time position with the Countryside Fire Protection District.

"I wanted to go full-time and this became available," she said.

With the kids grown and the resources to do so, Morris decided last December to hang up her headset.

"She was a very dedicated employee. She was proud to serve the communities she worked for -- all around a good person," said Ed Manke, communications supervisor.

Morris explained that the job description has evolved from dispatcher to telecommunicator.

"You just know when it is (time). I'm just ready. It's getting harder for me to keep up with technology -- younger people are more adept," she said.

"It's been a rewarding job. I've enjoyed it and helped a lot of people over the years, which makes you feel good."

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