After 18 years of service, Shift Lt. Kevin Kennedy signed off from Southwestern N.H. District Fire Mutual Aid for the last time Wednesday.
Kennedy’s time as a dispatcher was split between two different parts of his life.
He first put on his headset in 1975 at the age of 23, intrigued by a job that allowed him to help others. He worked at the Keene office for four years before heading down a different path, and starting his own environmental well-drilling business.
About 25 years later, Kennedy said he wanted a change of pace, and returned to his dispatch duties for the remainder of his career.
“I missed the excitement,” Kennedy, 66, said. “I love the excitement. You are really right in the middle of everything.”
And as the Fitzwilliam resident looks back on his tenure, he said it’s this thrill that he will miss the most. But, as when he came back to the field all those years ago, Kennedy said he is retiring because it’s time for something different.
“It’s really a job for a young person. You gotta be quick with computers ... and you have to be fast,” he said.
As a dispatcher, Kennedy was responsible for receiving emergency and non-emergency calls from people in potential danger. He also had to ensure the proper response team was called to a scene, which he said was the most challenging aspect of the job.
Mutual Aid serves 75 communities in southwestern New Hampshire and southeastern Vermont.
Not only did Kennedy need to call on response teams, he had to sometimes triage his calls.
“[I have to] figure out what is most important,” he said. “So do you pick the house fire or the heart attack?”
Over the years, call volumes have risen, he noted, which created more situations where he had to choose who got help first.
But his coworkers say this was one of his strengths.
“He is good at that. We have a large coverage area and can get quite busy,” Deputy Kassie Lunderville, who was trained by Kennedy, said in a text. “He does well determining life and property hazards quickly and responding appropriately.”
She added he was the “most reliable coworker” she has ever met, and he brought his best to the job every day.
Deputy Chief Thomas Redin echoed Lunderville, describing Kennedy as “dedicated.”
“Never took a sick day. Always willing to do extra,” Redin said in a text. “He covered a ton of shifts so others could take their vacation time off.”
And when a shift was slow, Lunderville said Kennedy helped pass the time.
“We used to have competitions of Trivial Pursuit and Parcheesi on the long overnights when we had no calls going on ...” she said. “I will miss his work ethic, attention to detail but mostly his good attitude, constant smile and friendship.”
Kennedy said he will still work part-time as a local contractor in Fitzwilliam, which he joked will likely turn into full-time work because he “has to stay busy.”
But he said nothing will quite replace the feeling of being a dispatcher.
“Just the idea of helping people, that’s the best part; where you can get some satisfaction of getting the job well done, or maybe saving a life,” Kennedy said. “That is what we strive to do here — saving a life when we can.”