The City of Enterprise employee family said a grateful goodbye to longtime E-911 Coordinator Lon Jones recently and welcomed interim director Tangi Hill.
At Jones’ retirement ceremony at City Hall, Mayor William E. Cooper presented him a plaque commemorating his almost 19 years of loyal, dedicated service as the city’s first E-911 coordinator.
“Lon has done a wonderful job to make this city better,” Cooper said. “E-911 is an important piece of technology; Lon, you’ve help to make sure that people could get emergency services to the right location where and when they needed help the most.
The Mayor said Jones has played a key role in creating an outstanding reputation for E-911 operation in Enterprise. “Through your leadership, this is probably one of the best managed systems in the state.”
Cooper and Police Chief Mike Moore said Jones’ work has affected many, many lives from behind the scenes and in a variety of helpful ways through the years.
“We appreciate everything you’ve done to better the city,” Moore said.
Hill, who has worked with Jones for more than five years, thanked him for teaching her the intricacies of the E-911 operation that will guide her as she takes over as interim coordinator.
Jones said he has full confidence in the ability of Hill to perform the duties as interim coordinator and to permanently direct the program if she is chosen to do so.
Hill, originally from Birmingham, came to the Enterprise area via her military husband, now retired SFC Waymond Hill. With a background in broadcast journalism and video production, Hill said serving in a communications job as assistant E-911 coordinator seemed like a natural fit for her.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Lon,” she said. “He’s taught me so much.”
Hill said for Jones and herself, the E-911 system is more than a job. Mapping, addressing and the Geographical Information System are necessary to ensure that help can get to those in need in a timely manner.
“It’s a vital part of everyday life,” she said. “I feel like I’m here to help meet the needs of citizens; it’s nice to feel like I can play a part in saving lives.”
Hill expressed admiration for those in the county who pioneered the system. “Thank you so much for laying the foundation for E-911 in Enterprise,” she told Jones.
Jones had a wealth of telecommunications experience when he came to Enterprise after retiring from Bell Telephone (U.S. West) in 2001. In 2002, he became the first City of Enterprise Enhanced 911 coordinator.
In 1996, Charles Webb, former Coffee County Emergency Management Agency director and longtime E-911 coordinator, along with his wife Gloria, founded the countywide E-911 system, which included everything outside of the Enterprise city limits.
After three years of addressing residences and renaming every road in Coffee County outside the Enterprise City Limits, the countywide system was activated in 1999, Webb said.
In Enterprise, the emergency reporting system had been upgraded several years before from the basic 911 emergency reporting to the Enhanced 911 system, which included wireless phone service or any device that could call 911. The Enterprise system was handled through the police department and its dispatch center.
“So it was in pretty good shape,” with regard to addressing, Webb recalled.
However, the Enterprise system was in need of some modernization, primarily in technology.
Jones was selected to help make the adjustments in the city, but Webb said it was soon evident that a full-time person was needed to keep up not only with changing technology but the addressing and mapping duties and other geographic and emergency communication issues that came with a consistently growing city.
Thus, Jones became the first full-time city E-911 coordinator.
“I remember when I started we were just barely using DOS (a disk operating system that is rarely used today), Jones said with a chuckle. “When wireless came, it really changed the E-911 world.”
Today, he said 90 percent of E-911 calls come from wireless communications users.
Jones said he was fortunate to have worked with Webb and the primary mapper for Coffee County, Marvin McIlwain, who is the current county E-911 coordinator, and is equally pleased to have been somewhat of a mentor to Hill.
“It’s been an enjoyable 18 years,” Jones said.
He is now looking forward to spending more time with his wife Diane, and traveling with her across the country.