Woodmen award top fireman, officer

Published 6:46 pm Monday, December 5, 2005

By By Adam Prestridge
The Woodmen of the World are always lending a helping hand.
Thursday night, the Atmore Lodge #1872 recognized two public safety workers that lend helping hands on a daily basis throughout Escambia County during a special ceremony and dinner held at the VFW.
Atmore Fire &Rescue Department fireman Mike Respress was awarded Fireman of the Year and Escambia County Sheriff's deputy Shaun Golden was presented Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for their dedicated and outstanding service to the community.
"We started this as public relations and it's a good thing," Woodmen vice president Jim Sanborn said. "I'm retired law enforcement and I know first hand that firemen and police officers go out everyday and put their lives on the line. They need to be recognized."
Respress, 42, has served as a Firefighter II, an inspector and an EMT with the Atmore Fire &Rescue Department for 20 years. His 21st anniversary will be in February 2006.
"It's my hometown and I don't want to go anywhere else, but here," Respress said.
Respress believes being voted on by his peers makes the honor that much more special.
"It makes you feel proud that they think that much of you," he said. "It makes me feel good."
Atmore Fire &Rescue Department chief Gerry McGhee spoke highly of Respress' dedication to the department and willingness to help the department grow.
"Mike's a real dedicated fireman," McGhee said. "Anytime I've called for help, he's been there to help. When somebody gets sick and I need somebody to work, all I have to do is pick up the phone and he's been there. The fire department is glad to have him, he does a good job."
The Woodmen's Fireman of the Year award isn't the first time Respress has been noted for his hard work. He won similar awards with the American Legion, Escambia County and through the Atmore Fire &Rescue Department.
"I try to be fair with whoever I have any dealings with or work with," Respress said. "I try to get along with everybody and help them whenever possible."
Golden, 27, has served as a deputy with the Escambia County Sheriff's Office for just over two years. He currently serves as the School Resource Officer at Escambia County Middle School.
"Hard work does pay off," Golden said. "It was unexpected. It's a good feeling. I've put in a lot of hard work and I'm glad someone noticed it."
Golden got his start several years ago working with the Andalusia Police Department. He later transferred to the Brewton Police Department before being hired on as Sheriff's Deputy. Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said he's glad to have Golden on staff and believes he plays a vital role in the department.
"He was selected because of his personable nature and his interested in the youth of the county," Smith said. "It seems to be a good choice. I was at the middle school yesterday (Thursday) and the principal, faculty and children, from what I saw, have a very positive relationship. That is essential for a D.A.R.E. officer. The program is only successful if the officer is successful at establishing a relationship with the children. Shaun's really taken to the challenge at the middle school. He seems like a perfect fit and we're proud of him."
Golden said he is thankful to the Woodmen of the World, the Sheriff's Office, Escambia County Middle School and the community as a whole for thinking so highly of his work. He believes his love for the job helps him to succeed.
"They know if they call me out to work, there's no hesitation, I'm there," Golden said. "I love my job and enjoy what I do. Everyday is a new day to me. I get out there and do what I'm supposed to do and make sure the people in the school and town are OK."
The Woodmen of the World Lodge #1872 presents the firemen and law officer of the year awards each December. The organization has been doing so for three years.

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