APCO 2023: Food for Thought Luncheon

On the final day of APCO 2023, the Food For Thought Luncheon in the Music City Center featured chapter membership awards, agency certification recognition, thanks to conference organizers and a preview of APCO 2024. Finally, the climax of the lunch came in a presentation by a pilot named Amelia Earhart.

But before all that, new APCO Executive Director Mel Maier expressed excitement about leading the nation’s largest law enforcement association after serving 33 years in public safety. Maier was the captain and chief of public safety communications for the Oakland County (Michigan) Sheriff’s Office before joining APCO in March 2022. He ascends to executive director after serving 18 months as APCO’s chief technology officer. Derek Poarch, who is retiring, remains CEO during the leadership transition.

Maier moved on to the award presentations and announced chapter membership awards for:

  • Chapter Growth in Number of Members for adding 745 new members to the Texas Chapter
  • Chapter Growth by Percentage of New Members with 73.1% to the Alaska Chapter
  • Population Density to the Wyoming Chapter

Member awards were followed by agencies achieving the Agency Training Program Certification standard from APCO and whose representatives were on hand to receive the recognition:

  • Carlsbad Police Department – Dispatch Division
  • Chandler Police Department
  • City of Roswell Division of Emergency Communications
  • Culpeper County Public Safety Communications Center
  • Cuyahoga Emergency Communications System (CECOMS)
  • Delaware County Emergency Services
  • Denver 9-1-1
  • Fayetteville Police Department
  • Gallatin County 9-1-1
  • Guilford Metro 9-1-1
  • Hilton Head Fire Rescue 9-1-1 Communications Center
  • Lake Worth Police Department
  • Northwest Central Dispatch System
  • Public Safety at Temple University
  • University of Nebraska – Lincoln Police Department
  • Wilson County Emergency Communications District
  • Woodward County E-9-1-1
  • York County 9-1-1

The complete list of certified agencies is here.

Conference co-chairs Chris Burst and Jackie Jackson came to the stage next as “Honky Tonk Tennessee” rang out in the ballroom. Burst and Jackson thanked the volunteers, staff and Nashville area emergency communications centers that contributed to APCO 2023’s success.

“We were told that volunteers would be the key to success for this conference and being the volunteer state, we expected a huge turnout,” Burst said. “What we did not expect was all of our 300 volunteer spots would be filled in the first six hours, an APCO first.”

The walkup music shifted to Jimmy Buffet’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” when the Tennessee organizers were followed by 2024 APCO Conference Committee Chair Ricky Rowell, who introduced the sites and sounds of Orlando, Florida, where next year’s conference is scheduled.

“I hope you’ll join us next summer in the sunny — and hot! — Florida to experience the best public safety communications event of the year and visit some of the many adventures the Orlando area has to offer,” Rowell said, as he cued a video promoting the host city.

“As you can tell, Orlando is fun for the whole family. The Sunshine State offers lots of shopping, dining, golfing, beaches, and you may even see some alligators. Go Gators! Kids and adults might enjoy Disney, Universal, Sea World, Legoland or a visit to the Kennedy Space Center.”

Vice president of public sector with Verizon Frontline, Kim Mirabella, took the stage to introduce a “modern-day Amelia Earhart,” a woman from Boulder, Colorado, who followed in the footsteps of her namesake. She lived up to the name her parents gave her — Amelia Rose Earhart — by piloting a single-engine plane around the world and  was among the youngest women to do so at the age of 31.

Earhart explained the ups and downs of her journey to accomplish this feat.

“We’re going to find out about what turbulence is, and what it means for us down here on the ground,” Earhart said. “The only airplane that never experiences turbulence is the one that stays locked up in a hangar.’’

Earhart set her sights on the journey in her 20s and described her struggles to complete flight training and organize the logistics for circumnavigating the globe on a reporter’s income. “How’s this going to start? I don’t own an airplane. I can barely pay my rent eating ramen five days a week,” she said.

Her plan was to ask for corporate sponsors, none more important than the manufacturer of the Swiss single-engine airplane that she wanted to use to fly around the world.

Earhart had qualified on the airplane and, to her surprise, company representatives agreed to her plan. They would let her fly a new Pilatus PC-12 NG, reconfigured so it could cross an ocean without refueling.

But before the flight began, she experienced some turbulence.

Invited for an interview on Good Morning America, Earhart repeated what a genealogist had told her: that she is related to Amelia Mary Earhart but was unsure exactly how. She had a shock when she arrived back in Denver because one of her colleagues had announced on her own news station that Amelia Rose was no relation to Amelia Mary. Earhart hired a new genealogist and found out it was true. Despite the same last name, her family was not related to the more famous Earharts.

Vitriol had poured down on her since the unceremonious outing of her non-relation to the famous pilot. Now she had a decision to make. Would she go ahead with the flight? Well, she reasoned, “learning this new information didn’t suddenly take all my flight training experience away from me.” She called all her sponsors and told them the story and all of them remained committed to the project.

The journey, which raised money for young women and teenage girls to attend flight school, was a success. With copilot Shane Jordan, she flew 18 days and drew huge crowds at their stops. Like the original Amelia Earhart, she took off from Oakland, California. The first Earhart did not make it back to Oakland in 1937, but Earhart and Jordan landed there on July 11, 2014.

By Richard Goldstein