By Richard Rourk
April marks the end of an era for Unicoi County 911 Board Chairman Bill Hensley.
Hensley recently announced his intent to retire from the 911 board after 10 years of service.
“I just felt it was time to step away and let someone else lead this group,” Hensley said.
According to Unicoi County 911 Executive Director Travis Chandler, Hensley has poured his heart and soul into the role of Unicoi County 911 chairman.
“This man has come by just about every day to check on these dispatchers,” Chandler said. “He’s worked tirelessly to ensure that these employees had everything they needed from equipment to salary.”
Hensley, who has served the county in numerous other capacities, was asked to serve on the Unicoi County 911 board by a former county mayor.
“I was called upon to serve on this board in 2011 by Unicoi County Mayor Greg Lynch,” Hensley said. “I was appointed as chairman by Lynch right after I was elected to the county commission, and I’ve been here ever since. Mayor Lynch was very helpful and let us do what we needed to do.”
According to Hensley, the Unicoi County 911 board has worked hard over the past 10 years to become self-sustaining.
“We have been able to create our own budget,” Hensley said. “When I got here we had a budget to spend, but it was mixed in with the sheriff’s. We didn’t have a budget of our own.”
He is proud that he was able to work to change that.
“We were able to take that out of the sheriff’s hands,” Hensley said. “I have to thank Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley for allowing us to break off. He really helped a lot.”
Hensley acknowledged that being fiscally responsible has really paid off for Unicoi County 911.
“At one point we were on the verge of getting taken over by the state,” Hensley said. “We were in distress when I came on board. We made some changes and started scrutinizing our spending and we quickly became one of the best in the state from what feedback we got from the state.”
Hensley noted that, in true Unicoi County fashion, the 911 dispatchers go above and beyond.
“As a board, we are proud of our dispatchers,” Hensley said. “To my knowledge they are the only ones in the state that not only handle emergency calls but they also work with the sheriff’s department and take care of their warrants. We save the county and the cities a tremendous amount of money by doing this. It would require roughly four new officers to handle these warrants if the dispatchers didn’t handle them.”
Despite retiring, Hensley acknowledged that he would be around to help in any way possible.
“I may be retired, but I’m just a phone call away,” Hensley said. “I’m always available to help the county in any way possible.”