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Walt Way retires as Johnson County Director of Emergency Management & Communications

Today, Walt Way retired after a 42-year career in public safety that touched nearly every facet of the profession – from serving with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office for more than three decades to directing operations at the county’s Emergency Management and Communications Department and spearheading technological improvements to the regional 9-1-1 system for the past decade.

During his long distinguished career, Way has provided leadership, experience, and expertise in the fields of public safety and 9-1-1 operations for Johnson County, the Greater Kansas City Region, and the state of Kansas. His efforts have helped in making our communities safe on both sides of the state line by building and improving an emergency communications network that achieves the highest levels of performance across all boundaries.

Way’s professional roots began in law enforcement in April 1973 as a deputy sheriff with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. In addition to management assignments in detention, patrol, investigations, crime laboratory, communications, and various administrative functions during his career with the Sheriff’s Office, he was responsible for development and management of operating and capital budgets for all communications and information technology projects.

In 1996, Way began serving as co-chair for the Kansas City Metropolitan 9-1-1 System’s User Committee and has served on the region’s Public Safety Communications Board that oversees multi-county public safety communications systems in nine Kansas and Missouri counties. He was actively involved in metropolitan/regional efforts to implement the technology improvements needed for local emergency dispatchers to locate wireless 9-1-1 callers. Way’s work with the regional 9-1-1 system led to his selection for the 2000 Regional Leadership Award from the Mid-America Regional Council for an agency administrator.

Way also spearheaded Johnson County’s lobbying efforts for legislation providing funding to support emergency communications in Johnson County and throughout Kansas. The bill, approved by the 2004 Kansas Legislature, imposes a 50-cent fee on monthly cell phone bills to pay for emergency wireless service, locally and across the state. The funding helps 9-1-1 centers buy equipment that will assist them in locating emergency wireless 9-1-1 callers through technological triangulation and global positioning systems.

After almost 32 years of service, Way retired from the Sheriff’s Office at the end of 2004 with the rank of colonel, the equivalent to the traditional second-in-command undersheriff, at the Sheriff’s Office. His retirement, however, was short-lived.

On February 1, 2005, Way assumed the duties of director of the Johnson County Emergency Management and Communications Department, including overseeing operations at the Emergency Communication Center. The ECC in Olathe provides enhanced state-of-the-art 9-1-1 and dispatching services to a dozen fire and EMS agencies in Johnson County along with the Sheriff’s Communications Unit.

Way also served as director of the Johnson County Radio System that serves more than 40 local government agencies in the county and co-chairman of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area Regional Radio System (MARRS) which administers a regional digital radio system that provides for public safety communications interoperability in the region. He was chairman of the Federal Enhanced 9-1-1 Grant Project Oversight Committee organized under the Kansas Governor’s Grants Office until 2011. He was appointed by Governor Sam Brownback in June of 2011 to chair the Kansas 9-1-1 Coordinating Council in which he is responsible for coordination of E-911 and Next Generation 9-1-1 services in Kansas, implementation of statewide 9-1-1 planning, and administration of council policies.

In April of this year, Way received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kansas City Regional 9-1-1 System for his dedication and leadership in the field of public safety communications.

Way is a lifelong resident of Johnson County, attending schools in the Shawnee Mission School District and graduating from Shawnee Mission West High School. He received an Associate of Arts Degree from Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, and a bachelor’s degree in management of criminal justice from Ottawa University. Way is a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy, Quantico, Va. and the FBI Executive Leadership Program.