PSAPs' Finest Honor Roll - Kimberly Stephens

Kimberly Stephens, Emergency Dispatch Manager, Lake County Florida

Kimberley StephensWhat skills do you need to be an effective 911 Director? Some would argue the obvious – starting with leadership. Others would say the ability to stay ahead of the curve. Still others would say a caring nature. According to those who know her best, Kimberly Stephens, the 2022 PSAPs’ Finest Director of the Year, possesses them all.

Kimberly has had a professional role in Public Safety within Lake County for over 30 years. Chief Carroll, Groveland Fire, describes Kimberly as having “a servant’s heart and as a professional who truly cares about delivering the very best communications services to the Groveland Fire Department and all of the other fire departments throughout Lake County.” 

Retired Chief Harrison, Lake County Fire, writes “Kim worked in some of the most challenging of times to ensure our needs in the fire service were met and never challenged change or the opportunity to better the organization.” Chief Smith, Lake EMS, says that Kimberly excels at “recognizing trends in communications and bringing them to their center.” And Chief Swanson, Eustis Fire, describes her as “employing a progressive approach to ideas and concepts.” 

Over the years Kimberly has led the center through multiple storms, including the “Groundhog Day” tornadoes of 2007, back to back hurricanes in 2002, the “Storm of the Century in 1993, and most recently, Hurricane Irma. But the one thing she is most passionate about is her staff. Kimberly works tirelessly to support and encourage the supervisors, leads and telecommunicators daily. No matter who you ask, Kimberly is a standout!

Recently I had an opportunity to talk to Kimberly about what she loves most about her work and what being recognized as PSAPs’ Finest Director of the Year has meant to her.

What attracted you to a career in public safety communications? 
Kimberly: I began my career at 28. I had no experience but did have a lot of friends in public safety who told me they thought I’d be a good dispatcher. I’d always love to hear their stories and when the opportunity to apply was available, I submitted my application. I’m not going to lie…it was a rough start, and I almost didn’t make it through my probation. But I didn’t give up and I received a lot of support from my co-workers, friends, and family. That experience has helped me throughout the many roles I’ve had in my career as a dispatcher, trainer, supervisor, manager, etc. I always encourage our new hires with no experience to hang in there. I let them know that they’ll have some rough days but will also have some very rewarding ones! We’ll get through it together. And what better job to have than being that person who can help save someone’s life?! It takes a team to make it all work and they aren’t alone. I was released from training after an extended probation, and I’ve never looked back. 

What is your most memorable career experience?
Kimberly: Most memorable…hmmm. We’re talking 34 years. It’s difficult to pick just one and not focus on the extremely difficult ones that I’ll never forget. I’m going to say it’s definitely the ones where I’ve helped provide CPR instructions and we got a pulse back, or seeing the smile on one of our dispatchers faces when they did the same! I also got to tell our staff that all their hard work in trying to obtain Accreditation for our Center was approved, not just once for medical but then again for fire. I was so proud of them! It still puts a smile on my face every time we have visitors and I get to share the job they do! 

What do you most love about what you do?
Kimberly: At this point in my career, it’s definitely the people I work with. I have been blessed with such a great team of dispatchers who show up during some very challenging times and give 100 percent of themselves. We have single moms, single dads. They work nights, weekends, holidays during a time when the cost of living is so high in every way. They work hard, they have fun and regardless of how many times I walk into the Communications Center, I’m still amazed when I stand back and see how it all comes together. The public doesn’t get to see that. Typically, they remember the face of the paramedic or firefighter that came to their house, but in most instances, they don’t remember the dispatcher they spoke with who helped to provide care. I get to be a part of that and it’s one of the many things I love about the job I do. 

What advice would you have for others thinking about a similar career path?
Kimberly: Well…it’s not an easy career for sure. Let’s be honest, there is so much responsibility and stress every day they will go to work. The hours aren’t great, and the pay isn’t enough for everything they do. But if you ask yourself, if you could be a part of saving just ONE person’s life, would you want to do that? Of course you WOULD! What about two, three, or hundreds?! No two days will ever be the same. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and in the end, you’re a superhero. A SUPERHERO!! Wouldn’t you want to do that? 😊

What does it mean to be recognized with a PSAP’s Finest Award?
Kimberly: I never imagined that I would receive an award like this. I cried so hard when I read the letter my staff submitted and all the letters of support from our fire chiefs and others I have worked with throughout my career. We worked alongside each other every day and accomplished so many things together. It truly touched my heart and made me feel even prouder of the many things we’ve done together. 

My name is on the plaque but really, it was the work of many. I’m so appreciative of the time the staff at NICE has taken to recognize all of the recipients. I appreciate the time the judges took to read everything and make their decisions. I’m blessed beyond comprehension. I’ve never put up any of the awards I’ve received over the years. The walls in my office are filled with words of encouragement or something about being kind to others. This one is different. I proudly display my plaque in my office and smile every time I look up at it. Wow…people really think that about me? That’s so NICE!

About the PSAPs’ Finest Awards 
Know someone you’d like to nominate for a PSAPs’ Finest award? Nominations for the 2023 PSAPs’ Finest Awards are open now! Winners are recognized in nine categories:

  • Director
  • Line Supervisor
  • Technician
  • Trainer
  • Telecommunicator
  • Innovator
  • PSAP of the Year
  • Above & Beyond
  • Lifetime Achievement

The PSAPs’ Finest awards is an annual recognition program for emergency communications (ECC) professionals. Since their inception, NICE’s PSAPs’ Finest Awards have recognized hundreds of dedicated emergency communications professionals. The program is open to all PSAPs, whether or not they are customers of NICE. An independent judging panel reviews and rates each nomination based on the individual’s or team’s contributions to their agencies and communities. 


To submit a nomination for any of the PSAPs' Finest Awards categories or to read about previous winners, simply visit the PSAPs' Finest website. Nominations can be submitted online through June 1, 2023.

Questions regarding the 2023 PSAPs' Finest Awards can be directed to