ALBION — Not many people know it, but every morning for 35 years, Mitch Fiandt has started his day with a prayer for emergency personnel.
Noble County’s E-911 director, Fiandt, 62, will be retiring May 30.
For 35 years, Mitch Fiandt has made Noble County not just better, but more safe.
“I’ve been working since I was 14 years old,” he said. “May 31? Is it a little scary? Yes. (But) the pressure will be gone.”
No more overseeing 12 full-time dispatchers and three or four part-time workers.
No more worry about hiring, retention and filling shift vacancies.
No $800,000-$900,000 budget to concern himself with.
No more state regulatory issues.
No more tied to his cell phone.
“You get calls and texts 24/7,” he said. “I won’t miss that one bit. I know I’m going to miss the people here. I just won’t miss the job.”
Fiandt has been involved in numerous state-level communications boards throughout his career, but has slowly whittled those down.
The Noble County Commissioners recently named Shellie Coney, of Albion, as Noble County’s new E-911 director.
“They hired a good replacement,” Fiandt said. “She’ll do a good job.”
As for Fiandt, he will be glad to give up the responsibility.
“I don’t regret doing it, but I wouldn’t do it again,” Fiandt said. “This has been my adult life, all but eight years of it.”
Fiandt was selling office supplies when he came in to make a pitch to the Noble County Sheriff’s Department in the early 1980s. Then Sheriff Don Leitch asked Fiandt if he’d ever considered working as a jailer.
Leitch said the pay wasn’t the best, but it was a steady job with good benefits. Fiandt, who was a reserve police office in Rome City at the time, took Leitch up on his offer.
He spent nearly 10 months working in the jail.
At that time, it was a small operation. There were times when he was the sole dispatcher and the only jailer.
“Every hour or so an Albion officer would come in so I could do head checks,” Fiandt said.
Fiandt became a full-time dispatcher, a position he held until becoming the assistant director of the communications center in 1992. In 1999, he was elevated to his current position.
“My philosophy is everybody goes home at the end of the day,” he said.
When he started as a dispatcher in 1984, there was a single radio console, a telephone, pencil and paper.
Today, each dispatch station has computers and large monitors. There are three dispatchers on some shifts, handling thousands of calls per year.
Fiandt has seen 911 calls go from basic, in which the phone would ring and dispatchers would have no idea who was calling, to cell phone 911 calls and texts.
“It’s unimaginable the changes I’ve seen,” Fiandt said.
Fiandt said dispatchers are 90% more efficient today than they were back when he started. Computers, he said, have made the job “more difficult to learn but more efficient to operate.”
One aspect of the job that hasn’t changed is the pressure.
“It’s a high stress job,” Fiandt said. “It pays good, but not good for the responsibility. It takes a toll. There’s a lot of ups and down with dispatching.”
As a dispatcher, Fiandt helped deliver a pair of babies. He also stayed on the line with a woman who was hiding under her desk during a bank robbery.
He’s always wanted to help people. And that has never changed. When he moved into administration, he pushed for technological upgrades to make helping people easier for dispatchers and other emergency responders.
“My goal is to keep the equipment new and updated,” he said.
Among the milestones of his administrative career have been:
• Pushing, with then-Auditor Shelley Mawhorter, for the creation of Noble County’s GIS department.
• Securing funding, with Noble County EMA Director Mick Newton, funding for new 800mhz radios.
• Working with Parkview Noble EMS Director Tom Shoemaker to establish EMS dispatching in Noble County.
All total, Fiandt has helped bring in $2 million to Noble County through various grants he has assisted with.
“I didn’t do it by myself,” he said. “There were other people I could rely on.”
Fiandt said he has had great cooperation from the county councils, county commissioners and sheriffs he has worked with.
Fiandt has been about public service his entire adult life. In addition to his time with E-911, Fiandt has recently entered his 45th year as a volunteer with the Albion Fire Department. His goal is to exceed his father’s 50 years with the department.
“I can’t let him beat me,” he said.
In the past, Fiandt served 12 years on the Albion Town Council and recently joined the Albion Redevelopment Commission, so he will stay active in that respect.
He plans on spending a lot of time with his three grandsons.
“My wife keeps finding me yards to mow,” he said with a laugh.
He has agreed to assist Coney with her new duties if needed. And he will remain active in the profession by trying to get dispatchers reclassified from clerical to emergency responders.
“We’ve been trying hard to get that reclassified,” he said. “That’s one thing I want to stay involved in.”