Walker County Emergency Services held their annual awards banquet on Dec. 7. During the banquet, those who went above and beyond the call of duty in 2013 were recognized for outstanding service.
Distinguished Service Award: Allen Padgett
Typically considered a Lifetime Achievement Award, this is given to members who have impacted not only the department but whose efforts are recognized on a regional, state and/or national level.
Padgett’s expertise and know-how on topics from rope techniques to search and rescue are sought by students nationwide.
He is known to most in the caving and climbing community as the co-author of “On Rope” which is still considered the “go to” for all things rope related.
Upon his retirement from the state’s Department of Natural Resources, Padgett has been busier than ever teaching search and rescue technique classes all over the state. His talents, not only on the cave and cliff team but also as an EMT, and experience running high-profile incidents have made him a valuable asset to our organization.
Station of the Year: Station 7
The selection process for this award involves reviewing total call response, average training per station member and overall station activity. While Station 7 — located on Jenkins Road, just off McFarland Avenue in Fairview — began the year with fewer than 10 members, it ends the year with 22 active members, more than doubling the station size with active community recruitment. The station members worked hard to get all the new members trained while still performing the expected duties of station maintenance and equipment readiness. This year, Station 7 members averaged 83 training hours per person – well above the state required 24. Station 7 finished the year strong and WCES officials are proud to recognize their efforts during 2013 by awarding them this honor.
Dispatcher of the Year: Mickey McConnell
Nominated by his peers, McConnell is recognized by other dispatchers as someone who is level-headed, cool and calm under pressure. He is well-respected within the emergency services community and has served Walker County well over the years. This year alone, he was instrumental in guiding citizens to safety in several emergency situations.
Support Firefighter of the Year: Christa Garner
Firefighter Garner is a very active member of WCES. She runs calls with multiple stations, completed driver’s training and participates in community projects with Station 7. In the last year, she has pushed through obstacles and bettered herself and the department. She has persevered in the face of challenges when many would have given up.
Rookie of the Year: Colton Sears
Sears has been a very active member since joining WCES. He has averaged more than 150 calls per year since joining WCES in 2012 all while maintain full time employment elsewhere. Sears spends extra time at the station working with apparatus drivers to learn all the equipment on the various trucks.
Firefighter of the Year: Travis Strawbridge
In addition to his regular duties as a full-time firefighter, Strawbridge has taken on several special projects. He has tackled the task of organizing equipment, ensuring it is color-coded for each specific apparatus and placing the equipment in a standardized location on each truck. Strawbridge has also been active in our public education activities.
Officer of the Year: Jordan Gitgood
From the very beginning of his tenure with WCES, Gitgood has been a very active first responder. He has received numerous awards, including being named WCES Rookie of the Year and Georgia State Firefighter of the Year. For this award, he was nominated by his peers. He has excelled in his leadership role as a Company Officer.
Paramedic of the Year: Tommy Champion
Champion continually renders exceptional patient care. In addition to his duties as a Paramedic, he has taken on the added responsibility of cross-training as a firefighter. Tommy not only continues his training as a paramedic but has also attended numerous fire training courses during the year. Additionally, he is a volunteer at Station 7 (in Fairview) and has assisted with several projects there.
Educator of the Year: Traci Reece
Traditionally, this award is given to the member who has been the most involved with education – either in the public or in-house at the station level. Although her primary responsibility is public education, Capt. Reece has gone above and beyond department expectations by establishing such successful programs as “Lunch and Learn” and “Adopt-A-Firefighter” during 2013, She also serves as the leader of the local Safe Kids where she combines her passions for safety and public education.
Civilian of the Year: Maxine and Bill Warren
This is not an annual award; as a matter of fact, it hasn’t been bestowed upon an honoree since 2004. However, this year’s winners are more than worthy of the recognition. Maxine and Bill Warren continuously support Station 7 in the Fairview community. They have assisted that station over the years, always there with a smile and a helping hand. The Warren’s may not have an official title in the department, but they have become an integral part of the emergency services family at Station 7.
CERT Member of the Year: Nadine Gilleland
If she is available, Nadine is there! She is always responding to calls, attending training classes and prepping the rehab bus for the next event. She serves as the CERT team secretary, assists with rehab on extended fire and rescue calls and has trained to serve in emergency shelters. She is constantly adding to her knowledge for disaster response and has been a great asset to the team.