“I REALLY LOVE MY CAREER”

“It’s better to know me and not need me than to need me and not know me.” This holds true for that time when you need to call 9-1-1 and have that gut-wrenching and sinking feeling of wondering if someone will actually answer and really be able to help in time. It’s been awhile since we’ve looked at the Dispatch Department in the Emergency Services building and this is a perfect time to get refreshed, with the arrival of KATE McKINLEY.

Kate McKinley, Paso Robles Police Department, Paso Robles

Paso Police Department Dispatcher, Kate McKinley.

Firstly, remember, NEVER BE AFRAID you are “bothering someone” by calling 9-1-1. They are here for our safety!

Let’s start with a couple of the good-news facts. The Dispatch Department is in really good shape. There are eight highly-trained and dedicated employees in the department that is on the 2nd floor of 900 Park Street — just 30 feet away from Police Chief Robert Burton’s and Mary Sponhaltz’s offices.

The dispatchers report to Mary (whom we all secretly know runs the department) even though the title on her desk translates to “Uber Assistant!”

Dispatchers are in position every hour of every day. When you need them, they are there. They are not even allowed to hold a second job without special permission and approval to insure they are available for us Roblans as needed.

The dispatchers receive about 120 service-calls each day. Service-calls are those related to the need for fire, police, ambulance and the like, for emergencies. The dispatchers answer all 9-1-1 calls for both police and fire. There are many more calls each day that are more routine — fender benders to be reported, parking questions, whom should I call for this or that, is the road closed, my cat’s up a tree, etc.

El Paso de Robles is lucky to have Kate on board. She is calm, deliberate, well-trained and thorough. You might ask, “Hey Chuck, how did she get to our little pueblo?” Good question. Let’s find out.

Kate’s family lived in five or six different states as her dad took increasingly important positions in his line of work. Mostly though, she’d say that Walla Walla, WA, where she spent her high school years, became the solid foundation she stood on.

Kate played H.S. softball, was in the band as a percussionist and played an active role in the school government. By then she’d also been playing piano and after thirty years, she plays classical music to this day. When a BS degree in Criminal Justice led to the “I want more” syndrome, she ended up with a Masters degree in Public Administration.

Kate began in finance and marketing, with a position in Belfast, Northern Ireland. After which she returned to Bellingham, WA where her family was at that time. Her dad heard there was an opening as a dispatcher in town and suggested she look into it. Kate was hired, and became a dispatcher in Bellingham for nine years!

Her experience spread as she did special work for the local S.W.A.T., became a training officer for new dispatchers, and saw extraordinary challenges during the Winter Olympics.

Ms. McKinley is a family-oriented woman and when her father took a position in Surprise, AZ, Kate thought, “Why not? I like to be near family.”

Off she went, and spent over three years being a dispatcher in that city of over 130,000 residents. Meanwhile, Kate had two children but still hadn’t found her “Forever town.” That is until she got a call to “Come on over!”

The ‘over to where?’ was Paso and it didn’t take any time at all for her to say, “Yup, this is gonna be it.” That was in February of this year and from my interview session, I’d say Kate’s here for the long haul! Here are a few of the reasons I came to that conclusion.

Kate said, “Once I started this career, I’ve never looked back on my finance and marketing aspirations and wondered ‘what-if.’ I love this work! Paso has character; it’s such a unique place; this is my forever-town with a great size and while the work can be emotionally draining, there is so much to do here. The people I’ve met are just beyond super and supportive. This career helps me compartmentalize my life and when I’m at work, I can really stay focused. The balance is splendid. Evolving technology for dispatchers and the ability to get rapid help to the residents where it’s needed are always exciting. It’s tremendous to get a call about, say, graffiti and know we have the team of volunteer graffiti cleaners who make it go away, right away. More importantly, knowing that I played a part in ending a serious situation is always an upper. I’m still learning my way around town and I’d love to teach piano lessons but all that will unfold as it’s meant to be.”

Good luck, Kate. Welcome home and we’re glad you’re here.