By Jennifer Solis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Friends, family and colleagues of West Newbury’s lead dispatcher, Lee Ann Delp, gathered in the Town Annex yesterday to see the 15-year veteran receive the 19th annual Jeff Grossman 911 Award.
Established by Grossman’s colleagues, the award is presented each year to one individual in the state who exemplifies the staunch dedication to public safety communications that Grossman did during his life, said Robert Watkinson, the president of the foundation that oversees the annual award.
Grosssman’s son, Dan, described his dad as somebody who “wasn’t about ego or personal gain. He was somebody who recognized the bigger picture.” Grossman’s widow, as well as several past award recipients, also attended Thursday’s ceremony.
Delp was presented with a plaque, several dispatcher pins, and $1,500 to cover expenses at a public safety conference for the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) in Anaheim, Calif. this summer.
After receiving her award, Delp thanked her family and police Chief Lisa Holmes for their support and acknowledged her co-workers who covered shifts for her so that she could be free to handle her other public safety commitments.
After working for 14 years with her husband Ron as publishers of the former weekly newspaper, the West Newbury News, Delp launched her career as part-time public safety dispatcher in West Newbury in 1998. She quickly earned a full-time spot and eventually was named lead dispatcher in 2006. In 2012 she was appointed the town’s emergency management director as well.
Since the beginning of her career, Delp has served as a representative for smaller public safety departments on numerous state 911 committees including Emergency Medical Dispatch, NextGen 911, and Wireless Direct. In 2010, she was elected secretary of the Massachusetts Communications Supervisors Association and later that year was named the group’s president.
As president, she has “spent countless hours, nights, and weekends” enlisting membership and educating them on emergency medical dispatch, quality assurance and improvement, according to a written program provided at the ceremony.
Delp has led public safety training sessions since 2005 both as an instructor for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s Nuclear Preparedness division, as an in-house APCO instructor for West Newbury’s department, and as a Community Emergency Response Team instructor. In 2012 she became an adjunct instructor for the APCO Institute.
Frank Pozniak, executive director of the Massachusetts 911 Department, praised Delp’s “unwavering commitment” to local public safety communications — “at least for a few more days” –an apparent reference to the fact that Delp has received a job offer from the Essex County Regional Emergency Communications Center in Middleton.
Delp’s boss, Holmes, said she and Delp are both task-oriented people with “strong personalities.”
“We’re type-A people…who seek perfection all the time and don’t stop until we reach it,” Holmes said. She described Delp as someone who “inspires her co-workers to want to do their best” and “who is always there for all of us, each and every day.”
Selectman Glenn Kemper credited Delp with being instrumental in educating him about factors to weigh when a small town like West Newbury contemplates joining a regional dispatch facility. In 2010, the Board of Selectmen rejected an offer from the Essex County Sheriff’s Department to join the regional facility in Middleton after the plan drew strong pushback from local safety personnel, including Delp.
Delp also received some special recognition from state officials. Barry Pett, a representative from state Senator Bruce Tarr’s office presented her with a proclamation, and Blair Sutherland, of the Massachusetts State Police, noted that her name would be added to a plaque of other winners of Grossman’s telecommunicator of the year award which hangs in the state’s 911 headquarters.
“911 dispatchers are the unsung heroes of the first responder system,” Pett said.
Watkinson agreed, saying, “You don’t hear about them; but if they weren’t there, it wouldn’t get done.”