By DAVID SWEARINGEN
EDITOR’S NOTE: Residents of Erath County are very fortunate to have many men and women who make living here safe, many of whom are volunteers. They are Hometown Heroes! These people keep us safe and we owe them our thanks and our respect. THANK YOU!
In this week’s edition of Hometown Heroes, meet Donna Kirklen, who has been a dispatcher at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years and a sergeant for 24 years. She is a dispatcher, but also serves as the supervisor over 10 other dispatchers in the office. Not just anyone can do the job of dispatching as it is very stressful job and dispatchers must display a professional attitude at all times.
She was born and raised in Stephenville, and is the daughter of Pat and the late Gene Morrison. Kirklen has an older brother, Robert, who is three years older and works at Tarleton State University. Kirklen’s whole family graduated from Stephenville High School, she graduated in 1988.
Kirklen’s father, Gene, has an extensive law enforcement background. He was an Erath County Reserve Deputy for over 30 years and also a volunteer fireman for 23 years. Gene was also very well known around the TSU campus as he worked for the Tarleton maintenance department for over 50 years.
Around 1990, Gene told his daughter she enjoy dispatching. So Kirklen decided to sit in on some actual dispatching to observe. Then, about a month or two later, Tarleton offered a continuing education class in dispatching and her father enrolled her.
Shortly after completing the course, there was an opening at the Erath County Sheriff’s Office (Sheriff David Coffee was the sheriff at that time). Kirklen applied for the job and 25 years later she is still dispatching and supervising others.
Kirklen said she and her co-workers continue to receive additional training throughout the year to help them be even better at their jobs. She said when she first started, Erath County did not even have 9-1-1 service available yet, but they got it shortly after 1990.
She typically works four 10-hour days a week, but those schedules are not constant because she is always on call for various reasons. Sometimes she and her co-workers get called in for various emergencies, equipment failure or co-worker illnesses. Kirklen said one thing she really likes about her job is she is able to get people the help they need as quickly as possible. She said over the years she has received several Thank You cards from people she has helped while doing her job and that helping those folks makes the hard times worth it. She said her fellow dispatchers make her job easier with their displays of professionalism, their skills, their knowledge, kindness, their willingness and desire to help others.
In her spare time, Kirklen likes to spend time with her family. She has been married to her husband, Ben Kirklen, for ten years and they have a 7-year-old son, Christopher. She also enjoys making wood crafts including lathe-turned wooden writing pens. She is also a HAM Radio Operator just like her Dad was. She and her family attend the First Baptist Church of Stephenville where she plays in the Bell Choir. She is a current member and past President of the Stephenville Kiwanis Club. And until just recently, she was on the Board of Directors for the Erath County Humane Society.
Kirklen closed by recalling something her father told her, “He never had a job in his life because when it is something that you enjoy doing, it is not a job. And that’s exactly how I feel.”