It was 1980 when LisaAnne Gregg began working as a dispatcher at the Walbridge Police Department. The office used four or five cassette decks – each attached to a separate phone line – to record calls. Messages were written on a typewriter – fire calls in red ink and police calls in black – and a written log of every incoming call was maintained.
Thirty-three years and two other police agencies later, Gregg can look back at a dispatching career that saw so much change in technology even she is amazed.
“Now you get in a computer and just digitally bring reportings up and find out what people said. Whereas before you had to go back and forth on those cassettes,” she said. “We knew the cassettes had to be changed because the tape would pop up at the end and we’d have to turn them over.”
So much time spent on a phone: “My kids don’t understand why I won’t answer the phone at home,” she laughs.
After 13 years with the Walbridge department, where she also was a patrol officer, she worked nine years at the dispatching center of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. She then worked at the dispatching office of the Perrysburg Township police and fire departments from 2001 until earlier this year.
Despite the large number of emergency calls she’s taken over the years, several remain etched in her memory. The drowning of a young boy in a ditch swollen by rain and snow near Millbury was a particularly sad day.
“When they called, they didn’t have 9-1-1 then, a friend had to run all the way home to call the police to get somebody out there to help. I knew exactly where he was at because I played in the same place when I was a kid. I knew exactly what ditch he was talking about. All the years I played there as a child, that could have very easily been me.
“I went out there because it was around the corner from where my parents lived. I knew the family and the child. Unfortunately they didn’t find him in time to save him. The deputy on the other end of the creek who found the child the next day, I didn’t know at the time but later I married him.”
She was also working the night in April 1987 when a call came in of an explosion on Woodville Road. The then mayor of Clay Center, John Lach would later be indicted for placing a bomb in the car of his estranged wife.
“What a night,” Gregg recalled. “When the call came in we thought the old Honda East dealership was on fire. It was awful.”
Gregg officially retired from the Perrysburg department on July 30 but works part-time as a communications specialist for LifeFlight, based at the St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
“I couldn’t walk away from it, I’d worked here before and enjoyed it. I believe in the mission they’re doing. Sometimes God just puts you in a place where you need to be,” she said. “I just can’t see myself giving it up completely. Not yet.”
As a 17-year-old waitress at a Frisch’s restaurant on Woodville Road, Gregg met the woman who would become a career mentor, Marlene Long.
“She came in in uniform the first time I met her during a night shift, “Gregg said. “We’ve been good friends since. She encouraged me to consider this as a career. I remember walking in the door at Walbridge and I was about the youngest there. By the time I left I was like everybody’s mom.”