911 chief hangs up career of 38 years

Acting director will take retiring Phil Wasson's place
Phil Wasson



Phil Wasson, Augusta's longtime 911 director and a county employee for 38 years, retired Tuesday.

Wasson began his career with Augusta Police Department but was working as a captain for Richmond County Sheriff Charles Webster in 1999 when Webster recommended him to head the county's new consolidated 911 service, he said.

Until then, callers might reach dispatchers working for either the sheriff's office, the fire department or emergency medical services, Wasson said.

"If you needed the fire department, you hollered across the room for them to pick up the line," he said.

Wasson, 61, said his retirement had nothing to do with city government's restructuring, which might eliminate jobs and consolidate other departments.

"Thirty-eight years is a long time to work in public safety," he said.

In August, the contributor to the city's 1949 pension plan discovered he was earning less working than he would retired, he said.

An Augusta native, Wasson said his retirement will allow him to spend more time with his daughter, three grandchildren and a fourth grandchild who is on the way.

Wasson's wife was Richmond County school police Chief Dianne Wasson, who died of a heart attack in 1996. She was 40.

Taking Phil Wasson's place at 911 is Catherine White, the assistant 911 director, who will be the acting director. White has worked for Augusta since 1981.

"I did not want to leave that place; I love the people there," Wasson said. "There are some great employees there -- the best in the city, the best in the state -- at that 911."

Despite rumors, which Human Resources Director Rod Powell called "wishful thinking," Augusta is offering no early-out opportunities, such as those given last year that credited employees a year's work toward their retirement benefits if they retired early.

Last year's incentive prompted about 30 employees to retire, while during the past two months only 10 have stepped down, he said.

Although the 1949 plan is no longer offered, many who delay retirement are those who joined another retirement plan late and continue to work to build up their benefits, Powell said.