Post 555 names Officers, Firefighter of the Year

PELHAM – The American Legion’s Matthew Blount Post 555 recently recognized three local first responders for their hard work and dedication to their respective jobs and to the community.

The award is meant to acknowledge those who go above and beyond in their line of duty every day.

The Pelham Fire Department’s Capt. Everett Hazen was recognized as Firefighter of the Year; and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rachel Ivey and Pelham Police Department Officer James Campbell were recognized as Officers of the Year.

With the amazing team in place at the Pelham Fire Department, Fire Chief Tim Honeycutt said it is very difficult at times to choose the right person for an award recognizing an individual who goes above and beyond, because “quite simply our entire team has that level of commitment.”

But Honeycutt said Hazen was chosen as Firefighter of the Year because he “exhibits everything good that a fire chief could want in a team member.”

“He is a man of character and integrity,” Honeycutt said.

Hazen began his fire service career with the city of Montgomery 16 years ago and has been with Pelham for 12 years. He holds many certifications from the Alabama State Fire College, as well as certifications in water rescue through Dive Rescue International.

In 2016, he completed the Alabama Smoke Diver school which Honeycutt said is the toughest certification to obtain due to the physical requirements to complete the course.

“He has worked diligently in the last 12 months to improve our training division and has spent countless hours working at our fire department training center on his off days from the department,” Honeycutt said. “He has recently taken over the training division on a full-time basis.”

Honeycutt said there is no way for him to thank Hazen enough for all he does to make the fire department better.

“However, I hope in receiving this award he can see how much he is appreciated,” Honeycutt said. “I also would like to thank American Legion Post 555 for their commitment to our community and all they do to make our city better – and thank you to each of their members for their service to our country.”

Ivey, who has been with the sheriff’s office since April 2004, is described in her nomination form as the “quintessence of a public servant.” Since graduating from the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy’s 131st Basic Session, Ivey has excelled in every aspect of any assignment she’s had.

Ivey is a traffic homicide investigator and has served as a school resource officer. Most recently, she joined a new initiative called COMPACT 2020, which seeks to prevent the youth from becoming involved in substance abuse and also looks at measures to prevent bullying. She has over 500 hours in continued professional development and is responsible for creating several programs within the sheriff’s office, such as hold-up alarms for banks and a very aggressive program to identify and prevent “tagging” which is a form of gang communication through graffiti in public areas.

Other programs where Ivey has succeeded is the D.A.R.E. program, which is a substance abuse prevention effort. She also serves on the Project Lifesaver Team, which provides armband monitors to those with forms of dementia or those with special needs to prevent them from getting lost if wander away from their caregiver.

“She has a true servant’s heart and does not look at law enforcement as simply the enforcement of law,” her nomination reads. “Rachel uses her position to help others and to make the community a better place, one person at a time.”

Ivey’s community service goes much further than her work as a law enforcement officer. She created A Minor Film School, which teaches youth how to use their mobile devices to create films and she volunteers her time and photography skills to take senior portraits of teenagers at King’s Home, a shelter for at-risk youth. She also started a prom dress drive for the young ladies at King’s Home.

“It would be impossible to recognize every single act of kindness, compassion, or going above the call of duty that Rachel has accomplished over the years,” the form reads. “In law enforcement, it is considered remarkable if someone goes out of their way to acknowledge the positive actions of an officer in writing. The written correspondence is a lost art, but Rachel has 10 letters from citizens thanking her for her assistance. These mostly revolve around her professionalism and attention to detail but some focus on her ‘going above and beyond’ what was expected.”

Police Chief Larry Palmer described Campbell as someone who has a “true concern for the citizens he serves.” In particular, Palmer said Campbell should be recognized for his support of Alabama’s veterans and his drug prevention efforts.

Palmer said Campbell has been instrumental in establishing a process utilized by the court system that offers help to veterans struggling with addiction or mental illness. Through the program veterans can qualify for deferred prosecution of their charge upon successful completion of a treatment and counseling program.

In 2017, Campbell volunteered to serve as a law enforcement representative on the Pelham Prevention Team, which is comprised of citizens tasked with developing strategies to prevent substance abuse in the community.

“His participation in this group has been has been critical in raising awareness about substance abuse issues impacting our area,” Palmer said.

Campbell also volunteers on a crisis intervention team where he, along with other officers provide valuable mentoring and intervention services during a crisis involving law enforcement personnel.

“Information I received from an officer in crisis was basically that had it not been for James Campbell, he would not have recovered to the point he currently enjoys,” Palmer said. “He said that James’ ability to listen and give feedback allowed him to foster an approach to recovery based on his capabilities and wishes and not an outside person’s platform for recovery.”