OXFORD COUNTY — Once upon a time, the dispatching of police, fire and rescue, happened at the Oxford County jail. Terri Littlehale, 64, of Newry, began her 27- (26.5, she says) year career there as a dispatcher in 1996. She ended it May 2, as a shift supervisor at the state-of-the-art Oxford County Regional Communications Center, next door to the jail.

Dispatcher Terri Littlehale takes a call minutes before she hangs up the phone for the last time. A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat

Her daughter, Deputy Danielle Welch, formerly with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office and now a deputy in Cumberland County, says since she “started working in the ‘Jail closet’ with Judy, Dan, Steve, and Mary, things have changed a lot.”

Littlehale came to the job wanting to help people, she says. And she has. The mother of two daughters, and grandmother of two grandsons and two granddaughters, she says helping people is what’s best about the job.

But there are negatives too. Her worst call, she remembers, was a murder-suicide. This took place on April Fools Day early in her career. She had just begun dispatching nights from midnight to 6 a.m. and was the sole dispatcher. “Back then, not much happened during those hours,” she explains.

And once, she says, “a long, long time ago,” she got to “deliver” a baby (via phone).

Back then, she explains, dispatchers didn’t have today’s Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) protocols and “you kinda had a flip book we could look at.”


Today, the protocols are on a systematic program of handling medical calls. Trained and licensed telecommunicators, using Maine State approved Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) Guide cards, quickly and properly determine the nature and priority of the call, dispatch the appropriate response, then give the caller instructions to help treat the patient until the responding EMS unit arrives.

Dispatcher Terri Littlehale is recognized by OCRCC Director Geff Inman for her 27 years of service to the residents of Oxford County.

Medical calls are not the only calls dispatchers deal with. There are fire and law enforcement calls as well. And sometimes, they all come in together either for the same incident or simply at the same time. As shift supervisor, Littlehale is ultimately responsible for how those calls go.

“Hers was the best training I ever had,” says former dispatcher Candice Jack. Jack is a 16-year veteran dispatcher who has worked with Littlehale through her entire career. “She is the reason I became a good dispatcher.”

Jack says Littlehale first trained her on the law desk which is responsible for dispatching and ensuring the safety of law enforcement – both town police departments and the Sheriff’s deputies. The desk also interacts and coordinates with Game wardens and state police.

“She is a true leader,” Jack continues, “an amazing mentor…no nonsense and she embodies a first responder.” Dispatchers are the first, first responders to deal with an incident. “She never expects you to do anything she wouldn’t do. She’s a legend [in dispatch].

“For my first three years it was often just the two of us working up at the jail and whenever it hit the fan with a major incident we just flowed together and got through it.


“I have seen her deal with calls that involved friends or family and stay completely focused. Afterwards she might go out in the hall for a moment and cry but she’d come right back in like nothing happened and get back to work.

“And it didn’t matter if it was her daughter or another officer – she treated them the same…she went above and beyond for everyone.”

While Littlehale says she had always planned to retire when she reached the age of 64, and though she really likes the job, she has “just finally burned out.”

A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat

She notes that since COVID, people calling in are so rude and demanding. Asking the questions she needs to in order to respond to the call quickly and appropriately, all she might get for an answer is  “just send someone.”

“We are going to miss Terri, after 27 years of dispatching she knows this county and its citizens like no one else,” says OCRCC Director Geff Inman. “She was always willing to work the open shifts to help others whenever needed. We wish her the best in her next adventure!”

She hopes to work at something less stressful now that she’s retired such as at the brewery in Bethel or maybe Mr. Pizza in Gorham, NH.


Her advice to newbies or those wanting to work as a dispatcher is “it’s not for everyone. If you think, early on, you can’t handle it, get out because it will eat you alive.”

Terri Littlehale closes her eyes and tries to maintain her professional demeanor as her daughter Deputy Danielle Welch of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office broadcasts her sign off call over the dispatch radio. A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat

However, she notes, there is always “something new every day!”

As guests gather quietly in the dispatch center, the formal sign off for Littlehale comes over the radio/scanner. Littlehale’s daughter Welch, sitting in her patrol vehicle outside the center with blue lights flashing, reads the sign off over the air…

“…You have taught numerous new dispatchers, supervisors, officers, first responders and administrators well over the years…You have kept your cool in heated situations, making sure that everyone is able to come home safely at the end of the shift. Multitasking fire, rescue, police and other emergency service units on the radio while keeping your shift on task is no easy feat, yet you make it look seamless.

Retiring OCRCC Dispatcher Terri Littlehale, right, with her proud daughters, from left, Danielle Welch and Staci St. Clair. A.M. Sheehan/Advertiser Democrat

“You bring a sense of professionalism and family to this job that is so important. You have missed several holiday functions over the years…Your willingness to create a sense of family and tradition in the dispatch center is greatly appreciated by so many on the road. The thanksgiving meals that you cooked for many years in dispatch and shared may be a highlight of my career as well.”

Welch closes with, “Now pull your big girl pants nice and high, kick back and relax. Enjoy your well-deserved retirement. You have worked very hard for this. I can say this knowing full well, we will all miss you on the radio” getting a laugh from those assembled as well as her mother.

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