Shelby County first responders honored at 2014 Safety Awards

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

PELHAM—Qualities such as dedication, professionalism and courage were echoed by police and fire department leaders from across Shelby County as they recognized the firefighters and police officers of the year during the 2014 Safety Awards luncheon hosted by the Greater Shelby County Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 29.

“Thank you for what you do every day to make Shelby County a safer (place to live) and better place to work,” GSCCC CEO Kirk Mancer said to the first responders gathered at the Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena for the awards presentation.

Thirteen first responders from Shelby County’s seven fire departments and six police departments were recognized as the Firefighters of the Year and Police Officers of the Year.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy John Samaniego presented Deputy Robert Rodriguez as the SCSO Officer of the Year. Rodriguez has been with the SCSO since 2009 and works in the tactical response unit as a critical issue negotiator.

Samaniego noted a particular incident in which Rodriguez was instrumental in diffusing a potentially dangerous situation “where somebody’s life was in jeopardy.”

“Through Robert and other deputies who were on the scene, we were able to take this situation and come away with a peaceful solution,” Samaniego said. “Robert did an outstanding job… he is a dedicated employee.”

The city of Alabaster honored firefighter Glenn Austin and Criminal Investigation Division detective Tommy Stewart.

The Cahaba Valley Fire District recognized Lt. Stephen Gathier as the department’s Firefighter of the Year.

“Cahaba Valley is proud to have Lt. Gaither as a member of this department,” Volunteer Commander Grant Wilkinson said.

The Calera Police Department recognized Cpl. Michael Poe as Police Officer of the Year.

“I don’t know when he sleeps, but he’s always at the department,” Calera Police Chief Sean Lemley said, noting Poe’s dedication to the job and effort to catalogue and organize the department’s evidence room.

Lemley also noted a domestic incident involving an armed suspect “that was extremely dangerous that (Poe) diffused.”

“Mike coordinated with all officers on scene and quickly established a perimeter around the house,” Lemley said. “Corp. Poe showed great restraint and professionalism in this incident.”

The Calera Fire Department honored nearly 14-year veteran Tyson Tryon as Firefighter of the Year. Calera Fire Chief Sean Kendrick noted under Tryon’s supervision, two patients had been successfully resuscitated in the past month.

“Without question, he is the most even tempered person in the entire fire department,” Kendrick said. “He is a phenomenal leader… he’s just a great person.”

The Chelsea Fire Department recognized Jayson Bryant as the department’s Firefighter of the Year. Bryant has been with the Chelsea Fire Department for five years and also works full-time with the Tuscaloosa Fire Department.

“We’ve got someone who really wants to be part of the team, and he shows that every day in his attitude,” Chelsea Fire Chief Wayne Shirley said. “You just don’t find them any better than Jason in his work ethic and attitude.”

Brett Gillespie was named the Helena Fire Department’s Firefighter of the Year. Gillespie began his career as a volunteer with the Helena Fire Department in 2010.

“Brett is a great guy to work with,” Helena Fire Capt. Chad Agee said. “We’ve been really blessed to have Brett with us.”

The Helena Police Department honored Christopher Morgan as the department’s Police Officer of the Year. Capt. James Penhale noted Morgan’s “numerous felony arrests,” dedication and willingness to “help out in anyway possible.”

“He’s a very special officer,” Penhale said. “He’s shown many many times how dedicated he is to the city of Helena (and) to the safety of the citizens of Helena.”

Montevallo Police Chief Jeremy Littleton recognized David Holloway as the department’s Police Officer of the Year. Holloway started his career with the Montevallo Police Department in 2009 as a part-time dispatcher.

“He has always been a hard worker with a great attitude,” Littleton said. “David is always eager to help his co-workers and community and always displays a level of professionalism that I’m very proud of.”

The North Shelby Fire District named volunteer firefighter Turner Herron the department’s Firefighter of the Year. Herron has volunteered with the department for more than two years and “aspires one day to become a career firefighter,” North Shelby Fire Chief Eugene Tyler said.

“Turner was chosen by his peers by an overwhelming majority to represent us here today,” Tyler said. “Turner receives his payday from helping others, and to me, that means a lot.”

The city of Pelham recognized Marcus Carpenter as Firefighter of the Year and Al Sanders as Police Officer of the Year.