Stiles loves her work as 911 director
Seventeen years ago, Diana Stiles never dreamed of a career in telecommunications. But as soon as the idea found her, it seemed to be fate.
During that time, she worked herself up from being a dispatcher in Ottawa to leading her own 911 center in Bureau County. Her passion and drive to give it 110 percent has pushed her to become not only a voice for the betterment of 911 centers around the state, but throughout the entire nation.
In 2000, Stiles and her husband, Randy, were preparing to move back to their hometown of Ottawa to be closer to family. Stiles was saying goodbye to a job she really enjoyed and worried about what she might do for a career once she was home.
While talking with her dad one night about the crossroads in her life, he suggested she take the civil services test to become a telecommunicator for the city of Ottawa. As a fireman, he knew her strong personality and organizational skills would help her thrive in the position.
She gave it a second thought and decided to sign up. Stiles proved her dad right, when she received the second highest score in the class. And a month later, she found herself in a fast-paced career as a dispatcher.
“I loved every second of every day. You never knew what was going to come up and that was just so exciting,” she said.
The new career ended up being a perfect fit for her and looking back she laughs when talking about how well it suited the one speed she runs on — 100 miles a minute.
Not long after she’d worked herself up to become Ottawa’s dispatcher supervisor, she was approached by a 911 official at a meeting who asked if she’d be interested in the 911 director position open in Bureau County. Stiles agreed to a recommendation, but didn’t give much thought to it because she was happy with what she doing in Ottawa.
It wasn’t too soon later, she received a call asking her to meet with officials in Bureau County. They gave her a lot to think about and ultimately she made the choice to move forward with her career and accept the position.
“It was tough decision,” she admits.
But in the end, two factors attracted her to Bureau County. One, was that being director meant being top of the rung at the facility and she had a lot of ideas to share. And two, Bureau County was not yet a unified dispatch center and Stiles saw that as the perfect challenge to dive into.
“It’s taken me seven years to do it, but we are at the end of that path here and I’m super excited about it,” she said.
Transforming Bureau County into a centralized dispatch center means turning 911 into a one-stop shop, as Stiles puts it. It’s streamlining the 911 process so callers no longer have to be transferred for the service they need when they dial 911 for help. Callers will stay on the line with the same person and agency from the beginning to the end of the call.
Aside from her work in Bureau County, Stiles is the executive vice president of Illinois National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and is also involved in the Illinois Association of Public Communication Officials (APCO). Her work with these organizations has led her to become a lobbyist for 911.
Stiles has actively been going to Springfield twice a year for the past seven years to fight for legislation language that requires telephone companies to upgrade their fiber and structures, mandate wireless cell providers to get better location accuracy for 911 calls and to continue to fund 911 centers so they are capable of keeping up with the changing technology advancements.
She’s spent hours standing outside the doors of state representatives’ offices asking for two minutes of their time and giving them brief one-on-ones about the importance of putting politics aside and supporting 911.
“It’s a unique place to be,” she said. “It’s very eye-opening and I feel good about navigating the system these days.”
Stiles also serves on national committees to assist with the betterment of 911. One topic she shows a lot of passion for is improving dispatch distress.
“I jumped in on committees with those, because I think it’s extremely important that you remember the dispatchers are just as involved and affected by what’s happening as police officers, firemen and medics that show up on scene,” she said.
Having been a dispatcher herself, Stiles feels she’s a great advocate for this topic and is a strong voice for her own team back at home.
The passion she shows for her work keeps her busy, but at the end of the day she’s only grateful for Bureau County allowing her to follow these opportunities outside her director position.
“They have embraced the chaos I say that Diana is,” she laughed.
Looking back on the places her career has taken her in the past 17 years, she says there are no regrets.
“I love my job,” she said. “I have loved being in Bureau County the last seven years, especially because there’s been so much to try to accomplish. It’s not something that’s ever stayed stagnate. ... And that’s what’s so great about it.”
Outside of her 911 life, Stiles is a wife, mother, and grandmother to nine children. She lives in Ottawa with her husband and their Yorkie Poo, Oliver.