QUINCY -- Steve Rowlands looks at his 21 years as director of the Quincy/Adams County 911 Center and says he's proud of his time.
Rowlands will retire as director next week, leaving a system that has seen numerous changes since he started.
"It's an outstanding organization," Rowlands said. "It's up to date technology wise. We just turned on a $1.3 million radio system county wide, and it's in a good place. I'm ready to go off into retirement."
He started with the 911 Center in July 1998 after he retired from the Navy.
"When I came in here, we were in the basement of the (Adams County) Courthouse in a terribly small facility with basic 911," Rowlands said. "We were one of like three counties in the state of Illinois that had a basic 911 system instead of an enhanced 911 system, and over the years, we built this building, implemented enhanced 911, kept up with all our major systems to make sure they were up to date, and we have been fiscally conservative and smart with how we spend our state revenue."
Rowlands, 60, planned to work for another two years before retiring but decided it was time to leave.
He said he had support to stay on, including a June letter of support issued by Quincy Mayor Kyle Moore and the City Council.
"I could have been successful if I stayed, but I chose to retire because that's what is best for me and my family and probably for the organization in the long run," he said.
He believed it could have been challenging to be effective.
"It's a city-county partnership, and if one of these governments doesn't support what I'm doing, that makes me doing my job very challenging," Rowlands said.
The Adams County Board issued a 19-0 vote of no confidence against Rowlands on May 1. Officials at the time said the vote dealt with personnel issues.
Adams County Board Chairman Kent Snider said the county wishes him well in the future
"A search for a new director is in the process," Snider said.
Rowlands told The Herald-Whig after the vote that he had advocated for a significant pay increase for employees because he felt they were under compensated.
A contract with dispatchers represented by International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 822 was approved the following week by the Joint Emergency Telephone System Board. It provided a 10% raise for dispatchers in the first year.
New dispatchers will start at $16.62 per hour instead of the $15.11 dispatchers made under the first year of the three-year contract. Three percent and 4% raises were provided in the second and third years.
Rowlands acknowledged Monday that maintaining staff had been difficult in recent years as senior staff retired and with above average turnover for dispatchers.
"Right now, out of 15 dispatchers, we have four people in training and one vacancy," he said. "For the past four years, I've been down three dispatchers, trying to catch up. It takes a particular type of person that can deal with the stress of this job and not everybody can do it."
Mike Farha, chairman of the Joint Emergency Telephone System Board, which oversees the 911 Center, said he was proud to have worked with Rowlands for several years.
"He's leaving it a heck of a lot better then he found it," he said.
Farha noted staffing issues have required lots of overtime for dispatchers.
"It makes it hard on our employees, but they've been troopers," he said. "They've done a great job, he's done a great job with it, and I think we fixed that with the last contract. I think it helps."