By Cara Zarecor,
Max Milam, a life-long native of Humboldt, has been named interim director of the Gibson County E-911 Center. A week after the termination of former director Johanna Harrell, Milam was approved by the board to fill the vacant position.
Milam brings with him a wealth of experience in communications and dispatch service. In 2018, he retired from Tennessee Highway Patrol as communications coordinator in Jackson. In this position, he was over supervisors and dispatchers, engaged in outreach to local and state agencies, detailed emergency plans and operation transfers, conducted regular staff meetings and sought feedback from district captains to maintain a high performance of service to customers.
Prior to his role as communications coordinator, Milam had been a dispatch communications supervisor from 2003 to 2016 and before that, a District 8 dispatcher since 1985. Since 1988, he’s gone to 30 different training sessions, certifying him in telecommunications, system controls and all types of emergency situations.
As soon as he graduated high school he went to work for the Humboldt Police Department. He said, “This is the only kind of work I’ve ever known.”
During his last stint working for Tennessee Highway Patrol, Milam also worked part-time at Madison County Sheriff’s Department and just recently finished his last shift in order to take the interim director’s job in Gibson County.
“Retirement just wasn’t all it was cracked up to be,” he said.
A bachelor of only 55 with no children, Milam said that he went on a cruise and loved it, but then after that he wondered to himself, “What am I supposed to do now?”
He was honored when several citizens, various officers and eventually Gibson County E-911 Chairman James Fountain approached him about the position. Milam said that the board voted and chose him out of three applicants during their meeting on the evening of Oct. 14.
Milam said that he’d heard about the problems with the center, but only through what he’d read in the local newspapers and heard on local broadcast news.
The dispatchers are Milam’s immediate concern. Two of the dispatchers have “major experience,” he said, and the rest have only a year or less. He wants to get those dispatchers trained so they can properly carry out their duties.
“Dispatching is a big multitasking job,” he said. “A dispatcher may be on a call, on the radio and also paging someone out. I want to teach the dispatchers how to prioritize these tasks and also explain the ‘whys’ of priorities. This will give them more credibility.”
When asked about the current morale of his staff, Milam said, “Under the circumstances, it’s good. I want to meet with each dispatcher individually and talk with them to get their concerns and ideas. I hope we can collaborate some of those ideas and come out with something outstanding. I think they’re already starting to feel comfortable with me.”
Milam added that he wants the employees to adopt a “family attitude” with each other and with all the agencies and departments they serve. Further, he wants these agencies and departments to feel as though they’ve been deeply served by the center every time they pick up the phone.
“I also want to make sure that every first responder gets home safely,” he said.
Milam recalled asking his mother for a scanner once when he was a child.
“And she bought it for me,” he said.
He credits his mother for his values and being taught to genuinely care about all people. At the tender age of seven, he lost his father and older brother in a plane crash. His mother was left to raise him and two other children as a widow. Just last month, Milam laid his mother to rest after tending to her for the past 14 years.
“There was not a finer person,” he said of her.
Milam affirmed that he would take a proposal to stay on permanently into consideration should the opportunity present itself.