Wright County Dispatch Director Retires

For 35 years Dan Ott helped citizens and directed emergency services throughout Wright County and beyond. Firefighters, police, EMTs, and more have been guided by Ott across roughly 570 square miles over the decades during his time as director of Wright County Dispatch..

    "When I took the job, I was trained for an hour, took over, and worked an eight hour shift," said Ott. "Now it's six months to train someone to work."

     When Ott started, he used a pen and paper to keep track of emergency numbers and codes. He received drivers license information from the state radio in Belmond and, in the event of a fire, he had a switch underneath his counter that called the home phones of the firemen.

     "We had to repeat for a couple minutes where the fire was," said Ott.

     Today things are more complicated, but they also move faster. Ott laments the dependency on computers, but acknowledges that logging calls and paging emergency workers has gotten easier and quicker over the years.

     As the technology has changed with the times, so have the people. In Ott's opinion, not always for the better.

     "When I started, people weren't quite as sue happy," said Ott recalling why police have become reluctant to help motorists that have locked their keys in their car. "These people were calling, asking for help. The officers and deputies went out and helped them get their car open, but at the point they scratched the paint or scratched the glass on the window, they'd sue them for it."

     Unlike firemen, paramedics, or police, Ott rarely had the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the people he helped.

     "It's a thankless job," said Ott. "You very seldom see thanks to the call dispatchers for giving help."

     Ott also felt frustrations from an aggressive news media, overly eager for a breaking story.

     "If you can believe this or not, I was working a couple weekends and had a couple bad accidents south of Eagle Grove. The TV station was calling me about the ambulance before the fire department got to the scene," said Ott. "All they did was impede the operation. I wanted to cuss and scream at them."

     Ott says he could probably fill up a book with all the stories, good and bad, that he's accumulated over the years. Instead, he simply plans to quietly enjoy his retirement. Still settling into his retirement, Ott says he doesn't miss the job quite yet.

     "I miss the people, but not the calls."

Read more of Dan Ott’s thoughts on his career and retirement in the April 17 Monitor!!