First responders are the people who, in emergencies, run toward danger instead of away from it.
The Columbia County Exchange Club honored these heroes by naming 2013 peace officers and firefighters of the year a Thursday breakfast meeting.
“From the top to the bottom, the quality of law enforcement and firefighting services in the community is unparalleled,” Superior Court Judge J. Wade Pad-gett said, adding that as a son of a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent, he “gets it.”
“Those who are being honored today are the best of the best. Those who are being honored today are representative of an outstanding group of men and woman that they work alongside.”
The club recognized Grovetown Department of Public Safety Investigator Richard Lavallee; Harlem Police Department Officer Matthew Loflin and Columbia County sheriff’s Field Training Officer Anthony Moseley as Peace Officers of the Year for their respective agencies.
Honored as Firefighters of the Year are Andrew McFatridge of Grovetown Department of Public Safety and EMT John Boyd and EMT/Engineer Danny Tiedeman of Columbia County Fire Rescue.
The honorees, who got a plaque, pin and handshakes from Exchange Club board members, were nominated by their peers. Their supervisors used words like diligent, professional, respectful, motivated and loyal in their recommendations.
“It’s awesome,” Grove-town Chief Gary Owens said of two of his staff being recognized. “In the city, you recognize your officers every day. But when somebody that is totally out of your element takes the time to say thank you and they speak highly of certain individuals, that’s amazing.”
Exchange Club President Carter Murphy said the award is an annual recognition for those public servants who go “above and beyond and do great things.”
He said it is a way to thank for the law enforcement officers and firefighters who serve the community and usually get little recognition for it.
“This is a fun thing we do every year, to be able to give this recognition,” Murphy said at the meeting. “From the bottom of our hearts, we appreciate everything that you do for our community.”
Columbia County Emergency and Operations Director Pam Tucker said her experiences with law enforcement and firefighters is usually during a crisis. It’s then, she sees them working together, at their best. Tucker said during a storm, when residents are at home without power, it’s these men and women who are in the middle of the storm at 3 a.m. cutting trees form the roadway.
“I admire them so much,” Tucker said. “You guys who are honored today exemplify honor, courage and strength and I greatly appreciate you for that.”
It’s these first responders who are expected to be the best, fastest, most professional personnel, expected to perform at the highest levels and with complete accuracy at all times and do so with a higher level of personal accountability.
It’s these tireless community servants who keep the community safe.
“Understand that you are incredibly blessed to have the quantity of representation of law enforcement and firefighting in this community,” Padgett said.
“You can go to sleep assured, you can go to work assured that the men and women who represent you, who take care of you, who serve and protect you, are the finest there are.”