After nearly 31 years, Marion dispatcher is preparing to hang up her headset for the final time

The Marion Police Department is celebrating the retirement of Judy Ward, a 911 communications operator.
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 3:07 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Communications operators, otherwise known as dispatchers, are the first people on the line when you call 911. After nearly 31 years at the Marion Police Department, one dispatcher is preparing to hang up her headset for the final time.

The department is celebrating the retirement of Judy Ward, a 911 communications operator who they say was always on the other end of the radio when help was needed.

Ward said she actually became a dispatcher by accident and it’s been the right job for her ever since.

She said that she applied at another police department but got turned down before she landed this job with Marion police in 1990. That’s where she’s been ever since.

Ward said when she started as a communications operator, they were using pen and paper to track information from 911 calls. Now, the computer systems track the information and map where a call is coming from.

She said a challenge is being on the side of the radio where you don’t always get to see the result.

“When I have a call, a serious call, and being on this end or this side of the radio, we sometimes don’t get to hear the rest of the story. So it makes me wonder, and sometimes I need to reach out to the officer that responded or the medic team that responded so I get the rest of the story,” said Communications Operator at the Marion Public Safety Communications Center for 30 years, five months and three days, Judy Ward.

Ward added that three of the most challenging times of her career have been the flood of 2008, the Derecho, and now the pandemic. She said the best part of her job was the people she got to work with. Saying she will miss everyone, but being in Marion, she knows they’re not too far away.

Megan Dumermuth is the daughter of a police officer that worked for the department for 40 years.

When she 2-years-old, she accidentally called 911, and by chance, and Judy was the operator that answered.

“What happened was my grandmother was babysitting me and she fell asleep. I then climbed up on the counter somehow, I think 911 may have been on our speed dial or I just knew to call 911,” Dumermuth said. “When I called, Judy answered! She noticed it came from parents’ home number and she said, ’911 what is your emergency?’ and I said ‘Hi!’ and she’s like, ‘Megan?’”

When she was younger and her dad was still working at the department, Dumermuth said she would go sit with Ward in the dispatch room and learn about her job.

She said that the accidental 911 call ended with her dad coming home to find her on the phone with Judy, and it’s a story she’ll always remember.

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