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Paramedic takes top honor at annual event

Clayton County Fire and Emergency Services Paramedic Zach Botkin was honored Wednesday as the Public Safety Professional of the Year, largely because of his devotion to the community as a volunteer.

Botkin, 27, was one of 15 finalists selected by the Knights of Columbus Tara Council #6352 for consideration for the 39th annual award honoring a Clayton County public safety employee.

"It's great," said Botkin. "I appreciate the honor and recognition and support. I love working in this county, and serving the citizens."

Officers from the Clayton County, Morrow, Forest Park, Lake City and Jonesboro police departments, Clayton Sheriff's Office, and fire services from Forest Park, Clayton County and Morrow, attended the awards luncheon hosted by Grand Knight John Halloran.

Clayton District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson also attended. Clayton Commission Vice Chairman Wole Ralph read a proclamation recognizing October as Public Safety Appreciation Month.

Halloran also awarded a certificate and savings bond to Our Lady of Mercy High School student, Anthony Proffit, winner of the essay contest. The topic was "Use of 21st Century Technology in Public Safety." Proffit was one of 13 finalists in the contest.

Clayton Fire and Emergency Services Chief Jeff Hood said he is proud of Botkin's achievements. "I am proud of all our personnel, but am extremely proud of Zach and all his accomplishments," said Hood. "This award is well-deserved. He is an outstanding employee, and the citizens of Clayton County benefit from his service."

Halloran said the choice to honor Botkin above the other nominees was "very, very clear. Some of the stuff you all are doing is just unbelievable," he said. "And to think, you do it every single day."

The application to nominate Botkin mentions his educational achievements and exemplary performance in the field. He finished in the top two of his EMT-1 class and passed his National Registry Licensure on the first try. He passed paramedic school in December at the top of his class, and passed the national exam on his first try.

His other training classes include: Hazmat Awareness and Operations certification, Incident Command and Leadership, continued education in pediatric care, cardiac care, altered mental status, respiratory emergencies, burn care, disabilities care, response to mass shooting, bronchitis, shock, self-defense for EMTs, situational awareness, vehicle accident care and extrication, knocking down cultural barriers, injury patterns and care for bombings.

Botkin is an effective advocate for patients and their families, the nomination states.

"He really cares about people," said Battalion Chief Jacque Feilke. "He puts the concerns of others first every time. Some people come in and do their work, but they don't really have their heart in it. Zach really cares about others."

His devotion to the community is apparent in his volunteering commitment, officials said. He volunteers weekly at "Young Life," a program that helps kids consider the direction of their lives, and offers hope for the future. He also takes time to go to schools and demonstrate the day-to-day tasks of an EMT and firefighter, and talk about fire safety.

Botkin volunteers with the Make A Wish Foundation. This year, he participated as the firefighter in the foundation's annual walk at Atlantic Station and talked with kids who dream of being a firefighter.

He spends some of his free time with the Muscular Dystrophy Association, volunteering at the annual field day and at summer camp as a counselor for a week.

Other nominees were: 911 Operator Adrian Ellis, and Officer Andrew Monroe, both with the Forest Park Police Department; Sgt. Ian Hogan, of Forest Park Fire and Emergency Services; Justin Mitchell, Clayton County sheriff's deputy; 911 Operator Victoria Campbell, and Officer Anthony L. Thomas, both with Clayton County Police Department; Cpl. Tammie Martin, of the Lake City Police Department; Lt. Anthony Lumpkin, of the Jonesboro Police Department; Detectives Phillip Brooks and David M. Schiff, of the Morrow Police Department, and Morrow Firefighters Joe Tritt, Matt Rawlins, Kevin Pace and Simeon Smith.