When tragedy strikes, first responders are always on scene, and five area first responders were recognized during the 29th annual presentation of the Public Service Awards at the Lafayette Hotel Tuesday afternoon.
"We just wanted to be able to recognize the local community for their services they do to help reduce loss, whether it be loss of life or property," said Teresa Hushion, secretary for the Marietta Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors, which hosts the annual event.
Honored for their service to the community were representatives from the Marietta City Police Department, the Marietta City Fire Department, the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the Washington County Firefighters Association and the Washington County Emergency Medical Services.
Marietta fire Chief C.W. Durham is honored with an award by the county firefighters association.
Each of the five branches serves a valuable role in the community, Hushion noted.
Who receives the honor is determined by nominations by the supervisors of each department, not by the association, making it a recognition of peers among public service personnel.
Marietta firefighter Dennis Fisher was honored by Marietta Fire Chief C.W. Durham, who was himself later given an award from the Washington County Firefighters Association.
Fisher is more than just a firefighter and EMT with the Marietta Fire Department. He's also a mentor, Durham said.
"He has through the years also been one of the senior guys for the younger guys to look up to, ask questions to, to be able to pass along the skills, the knowledge needed to be able to perform their daily duties," Durham said.
Rather than a first responder, the Marietta Police Department recognized one of the men who gets first responders where they need to be- dispatcher Stephen Baumgard.
at a glance
29th annual Public Service Awards winners
Firefighter Dennis Fisher, Marietta City Fire Department.
Dispatcher Stephen J. Baumgard, Marietta City Police Department.
Deputy Sheriff Scott Smeeks, Washington County Sheriff's Office.
Marietta Fire Chief C.W. Durham, Washington County Firefighters Association.
EMS Kreig Worstell, Washington County Emergency Medical Services.
"We felt the employee of the year would be someone that responded before the first responder," said Marietta Police Chief Brett McKitrick.
Baumgard, who started with city police in 1994, was the dispatcher on May 10, 2011, when a bomb threat was called in to Washington State Community College.
McKitrick praised Baumgard's ability to handle calls to all Marietta police officers, the Parkersburg Police Department, Marietta College campus police, the Zanesville Police Department and even from the media during that time.
"No one could ever understand the job I do unless you've been there, done that," Baumgard said.
Noting dispatchers have to be able to get information from people who can't remember where they live or what they just saw, Baumgard said they often need to have to have the wisdom of Solomon, the interview skills of Oprah and the humor of David Letterman all rolled into one.
"Dispatchers have two constant companions - co-workers and stress," Baumgard said.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks recognized Deputy Scott Smeeks, who he said is a consistent performer for the department and top-notch investigator.
Smeeks recently worked on the case involving the theft of copper from Eramet Marietta and within a week three suspects had been arrested, Mincks noted.
"Scott has, let's say a pit bull tenacity. He believes in leaving no stone unturned. He has an insatiable curiosity," Mincks praised.
Smeeks credited the people around him for the award.
"Us guys that are getting this stuff are only as good as our leaders," Smeeks said. "I'm very proud to work for Washington County."
Durham, who is also a volunteer with the Warren Volunteer Fire Department in addition to his position with the city of Marietta, has worked to join paid and volunteer firefighters into a single, cohesive unit.
"That's one of my main goals, is to eliminate that gap between paid and volunteer firefighters," Durham said. "I appreciate everybody's help and hard work in the county."
The Washington County Emergency Medical Services recognized Lowell-Adams VFD member Kreig Worstell, who also works with the Beverly-Waterford rescue squad.
In addition to his work with EMS, Worstell once needed EMS services a couple years ago when he was rear-ended by a tractor trailer while he was out looking for his missing dog.
Worstell was ejected from the vehicle, but his first concern was for the safety and well-being of others, said Mike Lee, president of the Washington County Firefighters Association.
"Kreig's only concern was whether the truck driver was hurt or anybody else was injured. He didn't have any concern for himself," Lee said.