Emergency dispatcher Millie Rowe was recently named Telecommunicator of the Year by both the City of Joliet and Will County. She has been a dispatcher for 24 years.
Stanley: What brought you to Joliet and a dispatching career?
Rowe: I’m from Chicago. I just applied for the job since (Joliet had) affordable housing. I didn’t know the city. I had no clue what it was like here. I came in for the testing when I first saw the room – which was in the city hall building at the time – and watched them work. I was in total awe. They knew all this stuff.
Stanley: Was shift work an adjustment for you?
Rowe: I worked midnights for my first 13 years. I slept from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and you always feel like you’re “off” a day. I’d have breakfast in the afternoon. Vacations can (affect) that. If I went to bed at 8 p.m. I’d wake up at midnight and be wide awake.
Stanley: Any early calls that have stuck with you?
Rowe: When I was pretty new I took a call from a guy who had just witnessed a homicide and was following the suspect in his car. I stayed on the phone with him while he followed the guy all the way to Ottawa.
Stanley: What’s the most difficult part of dealing with emergency calls?
Rowe: The times that you can’t help. And we never find out the endings to most calls cause you’re right onto the next one.
Stanley: What’s the biggest misconception about emergency dispatch?
Rowe: That we know the answer to everything. ... I mean, we’re close, but ... come on.
Stanley: What do you do when you aren’t working?
Rowe: I’m busy with my family – my husband, Phil, my daughters, Karina and Evie, and four grandchildren. I like scrapbooking and we’ve started traveling. I’ve been to Europe and now I’m going to do (all) the states.
Stanley: Are you curious how emergency calls are handled in other states?
Rowe: Everywhere I go, I find the police department and ask (for a tour). No one has let me in yet, but I try every time.
Stanley: Any other plans?
Rowe: I’m retiring next April; 25 years is enough for me.