Dunnaway Named E-911 System Chief -- Assistant Takes on Role after Kennedy Retirement

By Bailey, Henry | The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), March 2, 2012 | Go to article overview

Dunnaway Named E-911 System Chief -- Assistant Takes on Role after Kennedy Retirement


Bailey, Henry, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)


DeSoto's Emergency E-911 system has dialed up a new director - only the second in 23 years - by promoting longtime assistant Debby Dunnaway of Hernando to the post vacated in August by the retirement of her boss, first-response pioneer Jesse Kennedy.

"I've got some big shoes to fill," Dunnaway said. "I learned everything from Mr. Kennedy. He was a good mentor, and I don't know if I can do the job as well as he did. But I'll give it a good try."

Members of the E-911 Commission, who unanimously endorsed her at Wednesday's meeting, aren't worried.

"We're excited," Commissioner Chris Shelton said. "Debby does a great job and has proven her capability by running all the operations of the office since last summer."

"She's always excelled, and she's gone above and beyond what Jesse expected of her," said another commissioner, county Emergency Management chief Bobby Storey. "I'm looking forward to working with her as director."

Kennedy, who retired at 78, is considered a father of E-911 in Mississippi. He started with the county Communications District, E- 911's official name, in 1990 and was its only employee until 1999, when Dunnaway arrived. Kennedy, who traveled many dusty gravel roads in the early days, was instrumental in collecting all DeSoto addresses and street names and compiling the original database.

For years, the "job description" basically was what Kennedy, and then Dunnaway, did to get things done.

Now there's an official list of duties, prepared by a panel led by Shelton, that includes development, review and evaluation of existing and future 911 systems as well as upgrades to the 800 MHz radio network, multiagency computer-aided dispatch system, mobile data and geographic information systems dispatch capabilities.

Dunnaway will oversee all contracts and ensure the district is in compliance with all regulations and statutes, including maintaining files related to FCC licensing of radio frequencies. E-911 operates five dispatch centers, one in each of DeSoto's five municipalities, and four communications towers, in Olive Branch, Southaven, Hernando and near Nesbit. …

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