William Bassett will take the helm as the new executive director for the joint Fort Wayne-Allen County 911 call center.
Members of the Consolidated Communications Partnership, the board that oversees the center, unanimously approved the appointment Thursday.
Bassett began his career more than 20 years ago as a dispatcher in DeKalb County, then accepted a position in Allen County a few years later. He continued working as a dispatcher until about six years ago when he became deputy director of the county’s 911 call center.
He was appointed interim director of the joint city-county call center in January after director Tim Lee resigned to take a position in Florida.
Bassett was surprised but pleased by the announcement Thursday.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “I want to keep the center going in the positive direction it is going.”
The Consolidated Communications Partnership received 57 applications for the position, mostly from the Midwest but one from as far away as Nebraska, said Fort Wayne Fire Chief Amy Biggs, board president.
The board’s search committee interviewed numerous candidates, including Bassett. A subcommittee narrowed the field to 15, which was eventually pared down to eight.
The full board interviewed the final candidates.
“The interviews really formulated for us the value that you bring to the center,” Biggs told Bassett.
Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, also a board member, said he was impressed with the applicants, especially the final round.
“It’s to your credit that you came out on top,” he told Bassett.
“We have faith and confidence in Bill’s abilities, and our primary challenge will be to find his replacement as deputy director,” Biggs said.
Bassett’s firsthand knowledge and experience with the center’s changes through the years and with the staff and the new technology propelled him to the top of the list, Biggs said.
“He knows our strengths and weaknesses,” she said.
The center’s biggest challenge in the next few years is training, Bassett said.
“Training is always a concern; there’s lots of new technology,” he said.
Some of the newest technology involves emergency texting.
The center already can send texts, which can be used in instances when someone calls 911 and hangs up.
“Dispatchers can text the number to see if there is an emergency,” Bassett said.
Within the next few months, dispatchers will be able to receive inbound emergency texting, enabling people to text 911 in emergencies, he said.
The center has 75 dispatchers, two short of being fully staffed, he said.
Bassett and his wife, Kathryn, live in northwest Allen County with their 15-year-old triplets, Grace, David and James.