The best of the best of Richmond Hill public safety employees were presented with achievement awards by the Richmond Hill Exchange Club Feb. 28 at the Holiday Inn in Richmond Hill.
This year’s winners are Michelle Meacham for Richmond Hill Firefighter of the Year, Captain Mark Long for Richmond Hill Police Department Officer of the Year, Lewis Shuman for Bryan County EMS EMT of the Year, Ralph Chapman for South Bryan County Fire Department Firefighter of the Year, and the late Sergeant Michael Larson for Bryan County Sheriff’s Department Deputy of the Year.
Each year, the Club conducts a poll where they look to the city and county fire and law enforcement employees to vote for their peers in their respective departments. The Club asked that the heads of each unit introduce the award winners of their respective departments.
"We can only annually afford to recognize one member of each department, but we want to extend our gratitude for the each department that is represented here today," said Exchange Club President Mark Schaefer.
Schaefer went on to discuss the dangers that each department employee faces on a daily basis and how they are often taken for granted.
The first award handed out was given by RHFD Chief Vernon Rushing. Before handing the plaque to firefighter Meacham, he commented that Meacham, who started in 1999, was the first female firefighter in Bryan County and the first career firefighter in the city.
Next up was RHPD Chief Billy Reynolds who presented an award to Capt. Long. Reynolds spoke of Long’s 21 year run with the RHPD which saw him rise through the ranks from a patrolman to corporal to sergeant to, of course, captain.
"He does an outstanding job and is a valuable asset to the force," said Reynolds. "We love him to death."
Bryan County EMS coordinator Susan Clark was next to take the podium to introduce EMT of the Year Lewis Shuman.
"Lewis is an outstanding employee and very well liked among his peers," said Clark. "Everybody wants to be Lewis’s partner.
South BCFD firefighter of the Year Ralph Chapman was introduced by Capt. Jeff Nielsen. Nielsen spoke of the invaluable help Chapman has been to the department by writing grants and starting an annual physical exam program. Nielsen mentioned that Chapman unintentionally saved his own life via the physical program as some early detection of illness was uncovered and addressed.
In a heartfelt presentation that garnered a standing ovation, BCSD Capt. Mike Maxwell presented Sgt. Larson’s award to his widow Lisa Larson. Maxwell indicated that Larson received a record number of votes.
"We want to pay tribute to Mike for his work ethic, his dedication to duty, his professionalism and his sacrifice," Maxwell said. "We were extremely proud to call Mike Larson our friend and fellow officer."