SMITHFIELD – Johnston County’s emergency communications director Jason Barbour is retiring. Mr. Barbour said he informed Johnston County Manager Rick Hester on Tuesday of his decision to retire. His last day on the job will be January 31, 2021.
Mr. Barbour started his career in 1988 as a part-time telecommunicator with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. He served as a deputy sheriff from 1991 to 2000 when he was hired in July 2000 as the 911 director.
“During my tenure of 32 years – with 20 of those as 911 Director – Johnston County has experienced tremendous growth. With that growth, challenges and opportunities have presented themselves and by NC Standards, our center is no longer considered a small operation,” Barbour told Johnston County Report. “Some of the more notable events such as Hurricanes Bertha, Fran, Floyd, Matthew, and Florence brought new challenges and experience. We endured many tragedies during my years as the Director, but I have done my best to provide the citizens of Johnston County with a 911 center they can rely on in their time of need.”
“Our motto is ‘Failure is Not an Option’ and the quality and dedication of the 911 staff hold that commitment daily. The county will be planning the construction of a new 911 center soon and I look forward to assisting in any manner needed. Having started a law enforcement career in Johnston County after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, I look forward to continuing my service with Sheriff Bizzell as a reserved Deputy Sheriff. I have been very blessed to work with so many that dedicate their lives to the safety and quality of care to the citizens of Johnston County. As you can imagine, throughout 30 years, I have had the pleasure and support of the County Commissioners, County Manager Rick Hester, numerous 911 staff and particularly my Assistant Director Brett Renfrow. It has truly been an honor.”
Hester said Mr. Barbour would be missed. “Johnston County has been blessed to have Jason Barbour leading our 911 communications program. He has been a leader locally, statewide and on the national level.”
Johnston County Emergency Services Director Kevin Hubbard added, “Jason’s contributions to Johnston County’s first responders will be missed. I would like to thank Jason for his leadership and guidance, especially during our county’s most trying times.”
Mr. Barbour volunteered from 1991 to 2014 on the Clayton Fire Department where he served as a captain. “Jason came from a long line of firefighters – his father was a Clayton firefighter and his grandfather before him. Being a third generation firefighter meant he came with dedication and passion for emergency services,” said Clayton Fire Chief Lee Barbee, who noted that Barbour served on the Clayton Fire Department Advisory board and served with the fire department during critical restructuring years when the Town was transitioning from volunteer to part- and full-time. “Then, when Jason moved to Johnston County Emergency Service he helped Clayton become one of the first to make the transition to CAD or Computer Aided Dispatch. So in his time, Jason was a participant in some major advances that improved service and safety in this community.”
Under Barbour’s leadership the 911 center has grown from four dispatch positions to 12 per shift and from 15 to 48 employees. The 911 center is responsible for the management of calls for 10 police departments, 24 fire departments, 14 EMS stations, emergency management, fire marshal’s office, and 5 public works departments.
Barbour was the National President of NENA (National Emergency Number Association) from 2006 to 2008, served as Vice Chair of the North Carolina 9-1-1 Board from 2013 to 2016, and chairman of the North Carolina 9-1-1 Funding Committee from 2010 to 2016. In 2007, he was interviewed by Good Morning America to discuss best practices of 911 and in 2008 was interviewed for a segment on 911 by John Stossel for a 20/20 News Show.
When asked what had been the most rewarding moment as 911 Director, Barbour said, “The most rewarding moment was 7 days after completely replacing our radio system with a new P25 Phase 2 system, Hurricane Matthew hit. At that time, we experienced the heaviest call demand on our system and our new radio system pull though wonderfully.”
As for plans after retirement on January 31, 2021, ” I am planning to take some time and enjoy life with my family and see what God has planned for us. During my career, I have been fortunate to build professional relationships as well as friendships across the industry, and may see what branch of 911 service is available moving forward. For the last 20 years, I have been on call 24 hours 365 days a year. It will be an adjustment not being attached to a cell phone, but I anticipate an easy transition. Dana and I have built our retirement home near Emerald Isle and plan to spend most our time enjoying the beach life.”