Rockwall, TX (April 27, 2023) – Rotary Noon Rotary President, Kevin Pate, and fellow Rotarians welcomed attendees to the Public Safety Awards luncheon on April 27. The annual event included guests, recipient family members, and visiting Rotarians all with the purpose of encouraging and recognizing our public servants for the critical role they play in the safety and security of residents who call Rockwall County home.
“Our public safety, our freedom and our prosperity come with a lot of sacrifices by these first responders,” said Pate. Adding, “We can rest easy because you never rest.”
Trevor Reed opened the awards portion of the luncheon adding the Rotary’s appreciation for the role each department has in modeling and molding the youth today, an important part of the Rotary mission.
Fate Department of Public Safety Chief Lyle Lombard named honorees of Firefighter of the Year and Officer of the Year. Gary Wallace, while newer to the Fire Department, was unanimously named by supervisors as Fire Fighter of the year. While the Apparatus Engineer role is his sole responsibility, Gary routinely takes charge and volunteers for extra shifts, which has been especially helpful at a time when the department has been plagued by injuries.
Fate Officer of the Year, Officer Brian Dubetsky, not present, and his canine partner, Denzel, together seized $217,000 in illegally obtained US currency, 695 grams of THC, 12 pounds of marijuana, 226 grams of cocaine in the past year alone. Their work has received the attention of the DEA including requests to assist that organization with additional projects.
Chief Brandon Seery, of the Heath Department of Public Safety, recognized Detective Mel Tungcab as Officer of the Year noting that he is the first person to step up when needed. Detective Tungcab is trusted to work cases with consistency and accuracy with a positive attitude in every sense. Additionally, his graphic design skills were used in developing new logos for the department which is important to their culture and representation in the community.
McClendon Chisholm Fire Rescue, Chief Jim Simmons, stated that Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year, Scott Martinez, is a prime example of someone who does not need “stars and bars” to lead. Their department was fortunate to bring Scott and with his 15 years’ experience on board to lead and develop the EMS program. He is a committed and trustworthy member of the department, known to ask each person if they need anything before he leaves the station each day.
Royse City Fire Department Captain, Garret Rigsby, recognized Brad Bixler as Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year noting that Brad wears many hats as driver, firefighter, paramedic, step up officer and is remarkably strong in each capacity. Having been a part of multiple complex incidents in their city, Brad makes everyone’s job easy as he takes charge and does what needs to be done in a seamless manner. Chief Rigsby shared that personally Brad is an inspiration to himself and others, well-respected and an “overall great person”.
Chief Kirk Aldridge of the Royse City Police Department, recognized Officer Holly Hernandez as Officer of the Year. Joining the department in 2019, with 12 years’ experience at Allen Police Department, Officer Hernandez is known as an exceptional officer. Recently, taking on the role of School Resource Officer at the high school, she excelled and within a few weeks had developed strong relationships amongst students and administrators. Now a Traffic Officer, she is a valuable member of their department and community.
Rockwall County EMS Supervisor R Warren described Jesse Gracy, Paramedic of the Year, as a service-oriented individual recognized not only for his clinical knowledge but for the way in which he carries out his role. Voted by his peers for his unflinching positivity in extremely long hours, stressful conditions and a busy personal life, Paramedic Gracy performs life-saving and routine duties, in a manner that makes people feel genuinely cared for.
Rockwall Fire Department’s, Chief Kenneth Cullins, introduced Firefighter of the Year Tyler Baumgartner (not present), who was attending a training event. Tyler’s superior technical skills are well known but what stands out is his involvement in projects outside his immediate role and extends the department further into the community. These programs such as the Junior Fire Academy, Citizens Fire Academy and the Explorer program help broaden community knowledge and encourage others to get involved in the department. Chief Cullins pointed out that Tyler was selected for this role through a peer vote, which speaks to how well he works and is respected within the department.
Chief Terry Garrett, of the Rockwall County Sherriff’s Department, acknowledged Bernardo Garza as Deputy of the Year. Chief Garrett characterized Deputy Garza as a strategic thinker who offers great insight into many issues and services through his information technology capacity. Deputy Garza manages critical safety technology including the license plate reader program as well as commercial vehicle enforcement program – all while juggling anything else that needs to be done.
Introduced as Detective of the Year by Chief Ed Fowler of the Rockwall Police Department, Detective Michael Manuel currently serves as the department’s sole Juvenile Detective. Joining the department in 2018 with 14 years of experience, Detective Manuel has a vast range of experience as an SRO, SWAT officer, and canine officer. His current position has him working closely with the Texas Rangers heading up a high-profile child predator case out of Rockwall. While his career as an officer has included awards for valor, lifesaving, and others, he is a devoted family man to a large family which includes adoptive and foster children.
The luncheon closed with final words from Rotarians expressing their appreciation for the officers and their families, further acknowledging that their jobs have not been easy nor are they getting easier however our community remains safe due to their consistent efforts.
BRN Staff Report