ROLLA, Mo. — A former police dispatcher has become the first female named commander of a Missouri State Highway Patrol headquarters.
Capt. Lee Ann H. Kenley, 46, took over earlier this month as the head of Troop I in Rolla. The 23-year Highway Patrol veteran previously was stationed at the Troop C headquarters in St. Louis.
Kenley started her law enforcement career in 1981 as a dispatcher for the Rolla Police Department at the age of 19. Two years later she became a patrol officer, then decided she wanted to work for the Highway Patrol. She was one of three women who graduated from the patrol's academy in 1985.
"At that time there were only four women in the entire Highway Patrol, so our graduating class nearly doubled that number," Kenley said . "At one point, though, I was the only female member of the patrol stationed south of Interstate 44."
Since then she has worked in the patrol's narcotics division, including a stint as supervisor, and served as a liaison for the family of trooper Ralph Tatoian, who was killed in April 2005 when his car crashed into a tractor-trailer as he was driving to a manhunt.
"That's a tough task," Kenley said. "All you can do is help the family in whatever way you can."