For 30 years, Marsha Valentine was there for people -- answering calls of help from residents in danger and providing a backup to police officers in need.
She comforted callers while coordinating a response in her role as a police dispatcher for the Santa Maria Police Department’s Communication Division.
On Tuesday night, the Santa Maria City Council honored her years of service with a special proclamation marking her retirement.
Valentine began her career as a relief dispatcher in 1985 before becoming a full-time dispatcher in 1987. Then in 2001, she transitioned to be a dispatcher aide. She remained with the department until 2005, when she moved out of the area.
Two years later, she returned to Santa Maria and its police department as a certified dispatch aide and resumed her role connecting people with help and police officers with resources.
After working a total of 23 years full time and seven years part time, Valentine dispatched her last call Jan. 10.
“Thirty years behind that microphone is an awful long time. It is a very difficult job,” Santa Maria Police Chief Phil Hansen said. “Dispatchers are the lifeline for officers in the field, but they are [also] the first person that someone talks to when they need help.”
Dispatchers not only have to be aware of where police resources are located and effectively communicate where they are required, dispatchers also must decipher what sometimes-distraught callers need.
“Amongst a group of people that do a phenomenal job, Marsha was a standout. She was always a consummate professional and a joy to be around when you walk into the dispatch center," Hansen said.