Tutje Ranks as the Oldest Dispatcher in Iowa
The high-tech equipment in the department, though, was her greatest obstacle.
"It's a little overwhelming when you look at all the technology in there," Tutje said. "At that time, when I started, I had no experience with a computer. The computer was probably the biggest challenge. Now you couldn't get it away from me."
The dispatchers have three different shifts, and Tutje's schedule includes three days working 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and then three days working 4 p.m.-midnight. She has three days off before returning to the office, and she often spends those days with her family, including three children and four grandchildren.
Tutje noted that in her first years as a dispatcher, she worked all three shifts, "which was a grind."
She learned that each shift is distinct, with business calls coming during regular work hours and only a handful of calls in the middle of the night.
"The 4 to 12 shift is probably the most interesting one," she said. "People are out and about, and things are going on."
Tutje also has noticed that poor weather is not the only obstacle to increase the number of calls to the dispatchers.
"A full moon has an effect on people," she said.
Seventy-four-year-old Gayl Tutje has been the dispatcher at the Osceola County Sheriff's Department based in Sibley for about 18 years. She is the oldest working dispatcher, according to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
Tutje also fields non-emergency phone calls, and she enjoys finding information to answer questions.
"I think it's because I'm interested," she said. "I like to help people. If I don't know something, I like to find out. If somebody needs a name or something, I'll keep looking until I find it for them."
Tutje has no immediate plans for retirement. The job continues to be unpredictable, entertaining and rewarding.
"I like the people," she said. "I feel like I'm being useful and providing a service. I'm helping people, or try to. It's a very interesting job. It's not routine. When you go to work, you never know what you're going to find when your get there. I just kind of go day by day.
Gayl Tutje has lived in Sibley for more that 50 years. As a dispatcher for the Osceola County Sheriff's Department, she frequently can recognize the voice of whoever is on the other end of the line during an emergency call to the office.
"I think it's better that way," Tutje said. "You know them and their families and kind of know the situation."
The Northwest Iowa Review - April 19, 2008
By Krista Kielsmeier
SIBLEY -- Gayl Tutje kept her composure during that first frantic phone call.
"I suppose it was because I was a mother and older," Tutje said. "You've kind of dealt with panic situations with your own children. If they're screaming at you, you can't get the information, so you just try to calm them down so you can get the information you need."
The 74-year-old Sibley woman is a dispatcher and jailer for the Osceola County Sheriff's Department based in Sibley. According to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, Tutje is the oldest working dispatcher in Iowa.
She had been working at the sheriff's office in Sibley for about 18 years. Tutje was a farm wife and homemaker for many years, but after her husband died, Tutje looked to find employment.
"That kind of work had always interested," she said.
`Tutje had worked as a secretary following her graduation from high school in Worthington, MN, and law enforcement was another interest.
She answers 911 calls, completes paperwork for arrests and is a certified jailer. She searches female prisoners when they arrive at the jail.
Tutje receives additional jail and dispatch training each year and is certified in first aid and CPR procedures.