Garrard named director of 911 Commission

Published 6:00 am Friday, August 25, 2017

The Vicksburg-Warren 911 Commission decided to stay in house for the system’s new director, naming deputy director Shane Garrard to the position.

Garrard, who had been serving as interim director since Chuck Tate retired in July, was named director Wednesday.

“I’m very honored to get it,” Garrard said. “It feels good to start at the bottom and work your way up to the top. I’m very honored.

“I learned a lot from Chuck. Chuck was a public safety-driven director and I learned a lot from him about budgets, learned how to deal with a lot of different personalities. Chuck was a great mentor, a good friend. I’ve got some big shoes to fill, but I think I can manage and put my own spin on things.”

A Vicksburg native, Garrard became a dispatcher for Vicksburg-Warren 911 in 2011, after working several years in Fayetteville, Ark. He later became a lead dispatcher, supervisor and training coordinator and deputy director.

He is also a captain with the Northeast Volunteer Fire Department, and involved in the county emergency medical service and county search and rescue.

He believes his background as a dispatcher will help, “Because I know what the people go through day-in and day-out.

“I worked shifts, worked holidays, I know what they have to deal with day-in and day-out, and I think it will help morale overall. You can see a new dispatcher coming on thinking, ‘If Shane can make it, I can do that.’ It gives them something to work toward.”

He said one of his immediate plans is to revise and rewrite the department’s policy manuals.

“We’re going to look more in depth on our policies and rewriting and strengthening some of those. We’ve already been doing that along the way, but we’re really putting a focus on rewriting and strengthening those.

“We had a lot of paramilitary policies. We’re not a sworn agency; we’re not a military agency. Some of the language has got to change. Our policies are old, probably from 1991, when we first consolidated dispatch.”

Garrard is also planning to meet with Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and county administer John Smith about lowering the cost of 911. He said the 911 Commission has authorized him to hire more part-time dispatchers, which he said will help lower costs.

The new hires, he said, will give him eight part-time dispatchers and allow him to develop a schedule where he can have five dispatchers per shift and save on overtime costs.

Garrard said dispatchers at the center each have 208 hours of built-in overtime per year. He said, however, the dispatchers have been averaging an additional 392 hours each in unscheduled overtime a year. Bringing in the part-time dispatchers should eliminate the problem.

“I was surprised and relieved that the commission and the Board of Supervisors stayed in house with it,” he said. “In all of the history of (Vicksburg-Warren) 911, the director has never been a dispatcher before.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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