May 20, 2009 Edition

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Sparks receives statewide honor

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Lawrence County Communications Center supervisor Sherri Sparks of Walnut Ridge was named Arkansas Supervisor of the Year at the annual Association of Public-Safety Communications and National Emergency Number Association Conference on May 4 in Hot Springs. APCO/NENA is the organization that sets guidelines and standards for public safety communications and 911 Centers in Arkansas.

Lawrence County consolidated its emergency communications into the Lawrence County Communication Center (LCCC) in September of 2005. It is the communication hub of the county and includes 13 fire departments, two ambulance services, the sheriff's department, the Arkansas State Police and Arkansas Highway Police and the Walnut Ridge, Ravenden and Black Rock police departments.

Sparks began in the LCCC as a shift supervisor and has since been promoted to assistant director. She oversees the day-to-day operations of the center and has supervised and trained all telecommunicators in the transition from radios to console systems and in upgrades of the 911 systems, including Phase II, as well as the installation and operation of the Arkansas Wireless Information Network (AWIN) system.

Six full-time and 10 part-time telecommunicators are under her supervision, and she works four 10-hour shifts weekly. She has an additional duty as deputy coordinator for the Lawrence County Office of Emergency Management. In that capacity, she is in charge of all Homeland Security Grant Administration, including procurement, budget and inventory.

Sparks visits with County Judge Alex Latham, Sheriff Dan Ellison and Walnut Ridge Police Chief Leslie Gates on a daily basis. She meets with every employee at the communications center each week to see if everything is going the way it should. She also visits the ambulance services and each fire department in the county yearly to insure there are no problems with the system.

Steve Jones, Lawrence County Communications Center director, nominated Sparks for the honor.

"Sherri is open-minded, innovative and proactive in anything that might improve the LCCC," Jones said. "She has an excellent working relationship with the agencies that are dispatched through LCCC. She handles day-to-day operations but keeps me informed on a daily basis about situations that require my attention. She has a knack of taking care of most problems before they become a problem.

"During the recent ice storm Sherri continued to supervise LCCC and served as the primary coordinator with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management in obtaining aid for Lawrence County," added Jones. "She has continued in a follow-up role to complete the necessary paperwork for reimbursement for the county and the smaller towns in the county."

Sparks is a certified Emergency Medical Technician and serves in a general staff position, finance and administration, for the regional hazardous materials teams. She has taken many classes to enable her to more effectively manage and supervise LCCC and is currently in the process of reviewing and obtaining certification to see if it is feasible for LCCC to start an Emergency Medical Dispatch program.

Sparks moved to Walnut Ridge from Georgia 10 years ago and worked as a dispatcher at the Walnut Ridge Police Department for two years before the LCCC was formed. She began work at the center in 2005.

"I had no idea I had been nominated for this award," Sparks said. "I was very surprised. I'm glad that our county was recognized at the state conference, and I wish our whole team could have been there. Our team makes our dispatch center what it is, and that team makes my job easier."

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