The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Combined event honors public safety workers


March 7, 2017

PUBLIC SAFETY award winners are, from left, Eli Harris, Mike Severns, Josh Starha, Eric Galster, Ryan Cummings, Brent Gaskey, Chris Wingo, Sara Olson, Sasha McDonald, Geoff Hamlin, Kevin Greene and Pete Taraski. Not pictured are Doug Emmert, Zach Lincoln and Frank Gallagher.

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District and the Sweet Home Police Department presented their annual awards Saturday evening at the Elks Lodge.

“It’s pretty cool to have this event,” said Fire Chief Dave Barringer. “We haven’t done emergency services together.”

The fire and police departments used to hold a combined event about 30 years ago, Barringer said, and he and Police Chief Jeff Lynn began talking about doing the annual awards banquet together.

“We work with police really closely,” Barringer said. “They do a lot for us.”

The police probably do more for firefighters and medics than the other way around, he added.

“Just the other day, they put a fire out before we got there.”

“Don’t do that again!” Barringer said, as the audience laughed.

Lynn and Barringer thanked Lebanon Fire District and Police Department, along with Linn County Sheriff’s Office, for covering Sweet Home during the awards banquet, allowing police officers, medics, firefighters and dispatchers to attend.

“Not just myself, but the community appreciates what you do every day,” Lynn said to the gathered emergency services personnel.

While the fire district receives and appreciates the support of numerous businesses in Sweet Home, he singled out three for recognition.

First, he playfully targeted Hoy’s Hardware, owned and operated by Greg Mahler, who is a volunteer firefighter and the city’s mayor. Twelve firefighters presented the mayor with 12 rings, candy rings, to be kissed in recognition and good-natured mockery of his position in the community.

More seriously, Barringer recognized Cascade Timber Consulting, represented by Vice President Milt Moran, for allowing the fire district to install a repeater on one of CTC’s radio sites.

Radio communications are a key component to firefighter and medic safety, Barringer said.

He also called out Lerena Ruby and Seamingly Creative for special recognition. Ruby was not present at the banquet.

“Lerena is constantly serving and taking care of things we’re terrible at,” Barringer said, referring to sewing and repairing fire district uniforms. “Year in and year out, she just gives and gives.”

The two agencies presented several awards each.

School Resource Officer Geoff Hamlin was named the SHPD Employee of the Year, chosen by a vote among Police Department employees.

Key attributes for the Employee of the Year are integrity, a positive attitude, an ability to take positive and negative criticism, a sense of honor, competence, reliability, a willingness to go beyond the call of duty, compassion, problem solving and dedication, Lynn said. Hamlin received the award previously in 2013.

Comments that came with the votes said that he has “a very good rapport with the kids he works with,” Lynn said. He presents a positive image to children. “He’s easy to talk with, listens well and provides very good advice.”

He has built trust with the students, and he is interested in reinstating the department’s Explorers program, Lynn said. He has an outstanding appearance with the public, and “he’s always willing to help with projects others have in the community.”

Paramedic Mike Severns was named the SHFAD Firefighter of the Year.

Severns always has a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, said Battalion Chief Guy Smith.

“He has a never-quit attitude. He’s dependable most of the time – except archery season.”

He possibly has the largest biceps in the department, and definitely has the highest leap-to-height ratio, Smith noted. Severns also previously has been Rookie of the Year, Medic of the year and Firefighter of the Year and won the district’s Pride and Ownership Award.

Officer Ryan Cummings was named the SHPD Officer of the Year.

“Ryan Cummings is extremely detailed and very good at what he does,” said Sgt. Jason Van Eck. He is one of the department’s two defensive tactics instructors.

Lt. Zach Lincoln was the SHFAD Employee of the Year – for the second time in as many years.

He is a repeat winner for good reason, said Battalion Chief Shannon Pettner. “He represents what it means to be part of the service industry.”

Around the clock, Lincoln is responsive to others at the fire district, especially when someone needs help with computer and technical issues, Pettner said. He has made huge contributions in two key areas of safety: communications and training.

Officer Sasha McDonald received SHPD’s Defensive Tactics Award.

She pays close attention to defensive tactics training and never misses a training opportunity, said Officer Chris Wingo, who is a defensive tactics and state Police Academy instructor. She asks for advice and seeks additional training. Through that she has improved her skills in defensive tactics.

Rangemaster Brian Stevens presented the SHPD’s Marksmanship Award to Wingo.

“One man came to mind the more I thought about it,” Stevens said. “I never have to worry about how he’s going to do.”

Police officers are required to qualify at the shooting range regularly in order to carry a firearm.

Josh Starha received the SHFAD award for Medic of the Year.

Starha shows a willingness to teach others, said Lt. Josh Bondesen. He brings compassion and empathy to medical emergencies. He improves his own skills and mentors others, while constantly asking how he can do better and providing outstanding service and patient care. He is a medic other personnel 100 percent trust with their own families.

Kevin Greene, SHPD’s chaplain and a retired Linn County deputy, received an Outstanding Service Award from SHPD.

He retired from LCSO in 2009 as a first sergeant in the detectives unit, Lynn said. Last year, he and SHPD Sgt. Jason Ogden got together and floated the idea of a police chaplain.

“It has worked out and fantastically in my opinion,” Lynn said. “He brings a lot of leadership, and he brings expertise and support.”

He provides valuable counsel and support to department personnel, Lynn said. Lynn recalled working with Greene for a number of years, noting that Greene spent most of his time in the Sweet Home area. “I always felt he was one of those role models.”

SHFAD Officer of the Year went to Doug Emmert, a retired battalion chief.

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip,” Barringer said. “That’s Doug Emmert.”

Emmert is the kind of officer who can chew out someone else and be thanked for it, he said, noting that Emmert is the district’s only volunteer battalion chief.

SHFAD Chaplain Pete Taraski received the district’s Pride and Ownership Award.

“This individual has a lot of pride in our department,” Barringer said. “Being around him for the last three years, he’s been incredible.”

He helps all of the district’s personnel do their jobs, Barringer said. While firefighters and medics are busy doing what they have to do, Taraski “takes care of nasty situations. He’s there to pick up the pieces, and he’s very good at it.”

Frank Gallagher was named the SHPD Volunteer of the Year.

He has been part of the department for six years, longer than the department has been running its volunteer program, said Community Services Officer Gina Riley. He attended the SHPD Citizens Academy and continued to remain involved. He helps with the Jim Bean Public Safety Fair, the Teen Sharing Tree, downtown trick or treat, speed monitoring and wrapping Christmas presents. When McGruff visits, it’s usually Gallagher. He has pressure washed windows, helped move piles of old records, pulled weeds and more around the department.

Riley also thanked the other volunteers, who have helped make SHPD’s program very strong.

Battalion Chief Eli Harris won the SHFAD’s Rescue Technician of the Year.

He has an outstanding knowledge of technical rescue and continues to improve his own skills, Starha said. He has improved training and equipment to current standards.

Lynn presented the Chief’s Medal of Merit to Wingo.

Lynn said he was unaware of anyone receiving the honor as long as he has been a police officer in Sweet Home, about 18 years. The award is given to someone for an achievement or service beyond what is normally expected of an officer.

“It’s apparent he’s deserving of this award,” Lynn said, as he looks back on the last year and Wingo’s entire career.

Wingo is a field training officer in Sweet Home, defensive tactics instructor and an instructor at the Police Academy. He teaches use of force to the members of the SHPD, and he is a member of the Linn County SWAT Team. He brings the latest in SWAT training back to Sweet Home.

Eric Galster was named SHFAD Rookie of the Year.

“He has shown his dedication not only in his training but also his responses,” said EMT Jonathan Lemar. After his first call, “we could tell, he was hooked.”

Ogden presented a Certificate of Commendation on behalf of SHPD to McDonald for going out of her way to help a complainant take care of a problem.

On Sept. 2, McDonald responded to a criminal mischief complaint, Ogden said. Someone had spray painted a phallic symbol on the complainant’s car door. The complainant asked her what he could do to remove the paint. The complainant, a teacher, was concerned about driving the vehicle to work where the symbol could be seen by juveniles.

No business was open to provide supplies needed to clean the image off the door, Ogden said. So McDonald called her husband, Casey McDonald, a manager at Thriftway, for help. They assisted the teacher in removing the symbol from the vehicle.

She received the commendation for making “a profound influence on the complainant, the complainant’s family and complainant’s neighborhood,” Ogden said.

Sara Olson was named SHPD’s Telecommunicator of the Year.

She is very dedicated, said Supervisor Penny Leland. She is active in SHPD events, from the Sharing Tree to the Law Enforcement Memorial, child abuse prevention and the Polar Plunge.

Volunteer Firefighter John Marble, a 31-year veteran of the district, gave special recognition to Battalion Chief Shannon Pettner.

It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, he said, but he learned something last year observing Pettner at the scene of a motor-vehicle collision.

The two were the first ones on the scene, Marble said. They went to work trying to extricate a woman.

“The tools wouldn’t work,” Marble said. “The car wouldn’t give it up.”

They went inside the car to help the patient, and as others arrived, they worked on opening the vehicle. Things weren’t going well. The interior of the vehicle was loud, with noise from the woman in the car and the equipment.

“All of the sudden it got quiet,” Marble said. “It’s surreal.”

He looked up, and Pettner had the woman’s hand in one of hers and her other on the woman’s cheek, Marble said. She told the woman she needed her to calm down, that they would be able to get her out and to the hospital quickly. She told her everything would be all right.

“All of the sudden, the boys outside ripped the car door off,” Marble said, and the patient was on her way to the hospital just minutes later.

Almost immediately, firefighters received a report of a field fire, Marble said. Pettner only beat him to the scene because she got to her truck 10 seconds before he did.

After putting out that fire, they took a breather, sitting on the tail of one of the trucks, and he talked to her about how she calmed the patient.

She responded: “Sometimes we get so trapped in the technical part of what we’re doing, we forget there’s a human being involved here.”

That hit him like a sledgehammer, Marble said, as she reminded him about the importance of compassion, that the emergency services must be a little more compassionate.

“I learned something, thanks to Shannon,” he said.

Volunteer firefighter Dave Trask presented Volunteer Brent Gaskey with his helmet and his father’s nameplate in honor of his retirement. Gaskey has been a volunteer since 1991 and has retired from the volunteer service.

His father, the late Roy Gaskey, was a longtime firefighter, Trask said. He was someone Trask said he always knew he could rely on.

Barringer recognized several members of the district for their years of service, Cassie Richey and Starha, five years; Shannon Strubhar and Severns, 10 years; Wes Strubhar, 15 years; Joy Claborn 25 years; and Doug Shank, 30 years.

FIREFIGHTER Rod Holman, center, presents a candy ring to Mayor and SHFAD volunteer Greg Mahler, in a moment of levity.

Harris reported that 54 firefighters received 2,700 hours of training in 2016.

“It’s a huge demand for someone that has a career, family, even hobbies, to give so much time to training,” Harris said. The training requirement continues to increase, and many receive additional training in rescue and diving.

He recognized those who had more than 100 hours of training, which can be reached by attending every drill. To train more hours requires training outside of the district drill schedule.

Lemar trained for 115 hours; Barringer, 116 hours; J.T. Weld, 118 hours; and Trask, 136 hours.


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