By Jason A. Smith
Henry County Firefighter of the Year, Robert Harrell, said he was "surprised and humbled" when his co-workers nominated him for his work in public safety.
"It's appreciated, being thought of like that," said the 24-year, fire-service veteran. "I was shooting for Rookie of the Year, but I didn't get it."
Harrell was among a group of public safety workers who received awards at the Henry County Fire Department's fourth annual awards banquet. The event was held at the Locust Grove Conference Center May 22.
Interim Fire Chief, Bill Lacy, said the banquet was designed to praise the efforts of personnel at the agency, who have made significant accomplishments in the past year. The winners were voted on by employees, and the entries were evaluated by a nomination committee.
"I think it gives us an opportunity to recognize the outstanding service that our employees provide to the citizens of Henry County," Lacy said.
Firefighters typically work shifts of 24 hours on duty, and 48 hours off, and most of them do not have many opportunities to interact with each other as they did at the banquet, said Lacy.
Lacy said Harrell is an "outstanding choice" for Firefighter of the Year. "He has taught so many people who have come to work in fire service, in Henry County and in other areas as well," the interim chief continued. "He is just an outstanding example to all of our personnel, of someone who provides excellent service to the citizens of Henry County."
Harrell is also an emergency medical technician (EMT), and a peer counselor in the area of critical incident stress management. He said his co-workers are a major reason why he has continued to love his job for nearly a quarter of a century.
"You're surrounded by a group of people that are willing to give all at the drop of a hat," he said. "That's the name of the game with the job, and it carries on in their personal life, too. As far as I'm concerned, they all deserve Firefighter of the Year."
David Rowe, who works on fire department vehicles at the county's Fleet Services Department, received the Chief's Award at the event. Lacy said Rowe serves a vital role, in promoting safety for firefighters and the public. "At no [other] time in my career have I seen our apparatus fleet in such good condition," said Lacy. "That's important, because we deliver service through our apparatus. It has to work correctly to protect our citizens, and our personnel."
Other honorees included EMT of the Year, Damion Vaughan. Lacy commended Vaughan for his training of personnel at local businesses regarding hazardous materials, as well as the county's Local Emergency Planning Committee.
Additional awards were given for Paramedic of the Year, Flo Sheain-Wagner; Officer of the Year, Tommy McClain; Administrator of the Year, Julia Laster; Training Officer of the Year, Robby Russell; Prevention Officer of the Year, Ron Reagan; and Explorer of the Year, Jared Story.
Retirees, who were also honored at the banquet, included former Fire Chief Barry Jenkins, and Battalion Chief Roger Luna. Distinctions were also noted for years of service, and perfect attendance.
Sponsors for the banquet included Willett Honda South, Paradise Amusements, Shane's Rib Shack, Stockbridge Florist & Gifts, EmergiNet LLC, James King Cleaners and Tanger Outlet Mall.