This year marked the 13th year the Thomaston-Upson Rotary Club has held the Public Safety Appreciation Luncheon to honor those who put their lives on the line every day. The annual event recognizes members of local agencies who have been chosen by their supervisors for their willingness and dedication to serve and protect the community. Winners of this year’s awards are: Officer Bruce “Scooter” Gilbert of the Thomaston Police Department; Deputy Derris McCraney of the Upson County Sheriff’s Office; Trooper James Womble of Georgia State Patrol Post 26; Captain Tim Gordy of the Thomaston Fire Department and Medic Casey Harris of Mid-Georgia Ambulance.
Rotarian Lisa Ellington told the crowd the awards given out are the very least the club can do for such a special group of people.
“This luncheon today and these plaques you are about to receive, they are not even a drop in the bucket for the appreciation we should be showing you guys,” said Ellington. “I hate that we cannot recognize everybody on the force, but you guys deserve a special honor because you were selected by your agencies for these awards.”
Officer of the Year
The Officer of the Year award for 2015 went to Bruce “Scooter” Gilbert of the Thomaston Police Department. Captain Sidney Corley spoke of Gilbert’s accomplishments before he was presented the award, telling the crowd in the last year he has had 32 DUI arrests and been honored by the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving for his dedication to keeping intoxicated drivers off the roadways. He has made 26 drug arrests, 14 of those bringing a felony charge, resulting from traffic stops and has made more arrests than any other officer in the Thomaston Police Department. Captain Corley stated he is very proud to have Officer Gilbert as a member of the police force.
Officer Gilbert thanked his wife and family for supporting him in his decision to be a police officer, as well as noting he could not do what he does without the support of the Thomaston Police Department. He added he enjoys doing his part to make the streets of our community safer.
Deputy of the Year
The Deputy of the Year award for 2015 went to Derrius McCraney of the Upson County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Dan Kilgore told the crowd of how Deputy McCraney came to him in 2012 wanting to leave his position as an officer in Columbus to work in his hometown. He was hired to work in the jail where he did an outstanding job according to Kilgore. Deputy McCraney soon became a school resource officer at Upson Lee Middle School, a tough job that not everyone is cut out to do; however, Kilgore stated it is one that McCraney excels at. He continued, noting it is because of how well he works with the children in the community that Deputy McCraney was his “go to” guy when he formed the C.H.A.M.P.S. program for the fifth grade students and to take on the recent trip to Washington, D.C. with the sixth graders. Sheriff Kilgore stated he is proud of the relationship McCraney has with the students in our community and it is an honor to have him serve as a deputy for the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy McCraney thanked God and his family for supporting him over all these years and stated he is a prime example of how someone can change for the better, which is something he wants to instill in the children he works within the community. He added he is glad he is able to serve his community through his position.
Trooper of the Year
The Trooper of the Year award for 2015 went to James Womble of Georgia State Patrol Post 26 in Thomaston. Post Commander Sgt. Lawrence Harrell stated Trooper Womble leads the post in DUI arrests, child safety seat inspections and arrests in general. He was first employed with the GSP as a radio operator in 2006 and became a Trooper in 2009. Sgt. Harrell added that Womble is a very humble person and he always tells him it is not the people you lock up, but the ones you help that matter most.
Trooper Womble told the group that he has always wanted to be a Trooper since his younger days when riding along with his father, who ran a wrecker service. He added that he has always looked up to people in law enforcement and for him, being able to come back to his hometown and serve his community has always been his goal and is something he is honored to do each day.
Firefighter of the Year
The Firefighter of the Year award for 2015 went to Tim Gordy of the Thomaston Fire Department. Thomaston Fire Chief Eddie Lifsey told the crowd that Captain Gordy has been with the Thomaston Fire Department for nearly eight years, but has 26 years of experience serving as a volunteer firefighter, something he knew he wanted to be in elementary school. He added that there are likely very few people in the community who do not know Gordy, as he is the true definition of what it means to be a public servant. In addition to being a firefighter he also is very active in his church, Mountain View Baptist and runs a homeless ministry called ACTS Outreach. Chief Lifsey stated he is very proud to have Captain Gordy as one of Thomaston’s firefighters and the entire community should be as well.
Captain Gordy thanked God for allowing him to be here and his fellow firefighters for putting up with him over the years, adding that serving as a firefighter is something he truly enjoys.
Medic of the Year
The Medic of the Year award for 2015 went to Casey Harris of Mid-Georgia Ambulance. Mid Georgia Ambulance was unable to be present at the meeting.
In closing, each of the honorees expressed their gratitude to the Thomaston Upson Rotary Club for their willingness to host the luncheon each year, adding it is something they truly appreciate.
Ashley Biles can be reached by calling 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @AshleyBiles1