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E-911 Director Bovenschen advances, grows alongside department in last 24 years

Photo by HAROLD BOSSTICK: Sullivan County 911 Director Holly Bovenschen monitors screens inside the county's dispatch hub. She has overseen the department since December 1996, when she was hired she was in her 30s.

Holly Bovenschen first joined Sullivan County 911 in 1995 when she was hired as a dispatcher.

“You know, I didn’t come into my position as a dispatcher from a law enforcement background, from any kind of a background like that,” she said. “I was a hairdresser.”

However, after a roughly 18-month span building the department’s databases, she applied for and was hired as Sullivan County 911 Director, a position she has held since that time.

“A year and a half later, Jack Stapleton, who was the acting director decided to retire and wanted me to apply for his job,” Bovenschen said. “As a young dispatcher, I kind of freaked out a little bit about that, but I applied for it, and I got the job and I started as the director in December of 1996.”

Her young age was a challenge at the start.

“Most people in my position were in their 50s when they took, and I was not — I was in my 30s when I took the position …” Bovenschen said. “Within a year and a half, I was the director because I really took to it.”

And much has changed in dispatch work since the early days thanks to technology that records and processes information.

“We had no computers except to run license plates,” she said. “The only thing we had were a telephone receiver, the radio console and a pencil and paper — and we wrote every single thing …

“Now, everything is computerized,” she added. “And we type it all in and everything that comes in, all our 911s, are on-screen. We can see all their information.”

But, after work over the last few years, Bovenschen says Sullivan County’s 911 infrastructure is cutting edge.

“We’ve just went through a major upgrade,” she said. “So, right now, I think we’re state of the art. There’s always room to improve. There’s always changes as far as the 911 system goes … But, at this point, today, we are state of the art.”

Even with the current state of dispatch work, Bovenschen admits, only certain people will thrive in the high-stress environment of helping people in emergency situations.

“If you become a dispatcher … you either love it and you are good at it, or you are not good at it,” she said. “It’s one of those love/hate positions you are in it full force … You got it in your heart, or you don’t.”

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