As a police and fire dispatcher, Kim Collinsworth knew what it took to do her job.

"You have to be able to remain calm, no matter what happens," she said.

Collinsworth, 61, who retired Oct. 31 after serving 28 years as a Grandview Heights dispatcher, admitted to being a bit overwhelmed by the retirement party held in her honor Nov. 3 at the Guild Athletic Club.

The celebration included testimonials from law enforcement and fire personnel she worked with in Grandview, and, early in her career, Grove City, and from friends, too, about the impact Collinsworth made on them and the community.

Then came the real surprise: a commendation honoring Collinsworth signed by Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.

"I'm amazed. I wasn't expecting anything like that," she said.

A dispatcher has to be ready for anything, she said.

"Dispatchers are problem-solvers," Collinsworth said. "If you can't help the person who's calling in, you try to guide them to an agency that can help them or a firefighter or police officer who can give them advice."

A dispatcher also is a traffic officer of sorts, she said.

"You may have a lot of calls coming in at once and you have to be able to prioritize and decide the order that things have to be handled," Collinsworth said. "It does take a certain personality to be able to gather all of the information and stay calm and prioritize. I've seen some people who just couldn't handle it."

Most dispatchers are unflappable, whether they are sitting at the communication center or handling the pressures of daily life, she said.

"I see people get upset over things, and I tend to rationalize and think things through," Collinsworth said. "That applies to being a dispatcher."

When 911 calls come in, "you are dealing with people who may be in a crisis situation," Collinsworth said. "It may not be life or death, but it's important to them."

Being able to help people who are in need "is deeply satisfying," she said. "I think that's why dispatching appealed to me -- it gives you the chance to help people on a daily basis."

Over the years, there have been many instances when she talked someone through giving CPR to a loved one or assisted a parent whose child was choking, Collinsworth said.

"When those cases have a happy ending, and you know you've been able to help or send someone out who can help, it's the best feeling," she said.

"Sometimes it's frustrating because it doesn't turn out the way you'd like," Collinsworth said. "Sometimes there's nothing anyone can do. That's when it's tough, because you have to put that aside and move on to the next call."

It will be difficult for Grandview's police and fire departments to move on without Collinsworth, police Chief Tom McCann said.

"She's going to be sorely missed," McCann said. "She was always calm, cool and collected and officers out in the field always knew she'd have the information they needed."

That skill is vital to helping police officers do their jobs, he said.

"I don't think the public truly appreciates all that dispatchers do for police officers," McCann said.

Collinsworth always has displayed a positive, upbeat attitude, he said.

"It was hard not to smile whenever you got around her, because Kim always was so positive," McCann said.

Former Grandview fire Chief Hank Kauffman said Collinsworth was "very conscientious and very skilled. She was a great asset to the city, not just the fire department.

"Kim seemed to have an innate talent at gathering information and knowing what you needed to know," he said. "When people call 911, they're often in a panic, but Kim knew how to calm them down and get the information we needed to help them."

Perhaps not surprising for someone who spent a career working in a tiny communication room, Collinsworth said her initial plans for retirement include travel.

But she will continue to call Grandview Heights home.

"I love it here. It's a beautiful little town," Collinsworth said. "I don't want to live anywhere else."

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