By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
The move to the new Harrison-Taylor E911 Office Complex located at Charles Pointe in Bridgeport is fully operational now, and last Thursday was its official dedication. The facility was named in honor of Shinnston resident James Jarrett who is credited with having been the “pioneer” who spent decades enhancing the communications system for local first responders.
Ron Watson, President of the Harrison County Commission, said it was Jarrett’s desire, determination and discipline that earned him this tribute.
“The 911 Center is the lifeline for first responders, and this new facility serves to improve our dispatchers’ abilities. Jim Jarrett brought us to this point and it is only fitting that the complex bear his name,” Watson said.
Harrison-Taylor 911 Center Administrator Paul Bump said it had been a smooth transition to the new facility and described it as a “new beginning”.
“I have learned a lot from Jim, and one thing I will always remember most is his attitude of not settling for just being good; his philosophy is to always strive to be better!” Bump stated.
Tom Harrison joined the fire service in Shinnston shortly after Jarrett joined many years ago, and he summarized the 40 years of Jarrett’s leadership and volunteerism and how Jim had begun on day one of his service to make important changes.
A Charleston native, Jim is a graduate of WVU and was working for Pfizer Medical Labs in the 1960’s when he was transferred and came to make his home in Shinnston, purchasing a farm on Saltwell Road that has become known as Jadewood Farms. He was recruited to join the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department. A novice, completely unfamiliar with anything and everything about firefighting, Jim learned quickly and saw right away that there was room for improvement.
“Some people can see things and be satisfied with how they are, but Jim had a vision for how things could be,” Harrison said, giving solid examples of just how exemplary Jarrett’s devotion to fire service became.
“Jim took it upon himself to enroll in firefighter classes at WVU and he eventually became the school’s instructor. He made numerous trips to Maryland and fought fires with the Prince George’s County firefighters, listening to their radio communications and learning how to make things better here in Harrison County. He also traveled to places like Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Atlanta, observing how to blend fire departments, EMS squads and police agencies into one group for dispatching. He went to the MSA Breathing Apparatus Factory and became the first regulator repairman in Harrison County, then trained others how to use this apparatus. He initiated a cooperation among fire departments, forming the Fire Chiefs Association. Jim even wrote a Communications Course that was adopted by WVU and taught workers and volunteers the proper way to do communications. He arranged for a computer to be built and a program to be created that made all communications information computerized. This was the first Computer Aided Dispatching in West Virginia and many other areas of the United States,” Harrison explained.
…. And the list of Jim Jarrett’s dedication to improvements continued and continued, leaving no doubt that his devotion merited being celebrated last week!
Jim Jarrett gave 30 years of service as Deputy Chief of the Shinnston Volunteer Fire Department; he served 21 years as Bureau Chief; he was a Volunteer Assistant State Fire Marshall in WV, which led to an 18-year career as a Hazardous Materials and Arson Investigator; and the growth that resulted from improvements made under his leadership resulted in the Bureau’s need to move numerous times because more space was needed.
Harrison concluded by saying, “Jim Jarrett is a true visionary. He sees the ‘end’ when some people struggle to see the beginning! And far above all of his accomplishments is the fact that everything he did, he did as a volunteer!”
Jim Harris, a former 911 coordinator, said that Jarrett steered this new, more efficient way to drive data to dispatchers which has been an amazing aid to all first responders and helps them to save the lives and property of area citizens.
“I think the most valuable lesson I learned from Jim Jarrett was how to be a ‘servant’,” Harris concluded.
Jarrett then stepped to the podium, thanking Nancy, his wife of 58 years, and his family for their support through the years. He noted that his volunteerism had taken him away from lots of family dinners and made him miss many PTA meetings, etc., and he expressed his appreciation for his family standing by him and allowing him to become so involved.
Jim’s remarks also included praise for the communications dispatchers. “Some people think it is an easy job, but it takes compassion, patience, knowledge, energy, endurance, and it is NOT a simple job,” he stated.
However, thanks to Jim Jarrett’s vision and his ongoing devotion to making things better, this new Office Complex and its state-of-the-art communications system certainly betters by far the old way of recording information on 5X7 index cards! Dispatchers now have at their disposal the equipment to perform their job much more proficiently! And because of that, the real winners here are the citizens of Harrison and Taylor Counties.
Jim concluded by saying he was humbled by the tribute and made the following analogy …. “Even the tallest tree is only as good as its root system. I was very fortunate to have had a good root system.”