Optimists honor law enforcement officers
By Sara Gregory
They arrest drunk drivers. They serve as school resource officers. They investigate arson. They train other first responders.
Tuesday, they were honored at the Respect for Law breakfast as the county’s Optimist clubs recognized local law enforcement officers.
“We are a blessed county,” Salisbury Optimist Club President Leonard Robbins said. “I appreciate every one of you.”
The clubs honored 13 outstanding officers, one from each law enforcement agency in the county.
N.C. Highway Patrol retired Capt. Vernon Eddie White received the Paul G. Wilson Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.
White started with the Highway Patrol in 1979 and worked in Yadkin, Guilford and Rockingham counties before coming to Salisbury. He then worked in Monroe briefly before returning.
“His heart was in Rowan County,” Capt. Tony Miller said.
White, who retired Jan. 31, said law enforcement work is the greatest life that an individual can choose.
“If I were a young man, I’d choose to do it again,” he said.
The character, hard work and dedication of the recognized officers was cited repeatedly by department heads who presented the awards.
Officers also heard from guest speaker David Whisenant, a WBTV reporter who talked about his experiences working with law officers, beginning with his first week on the job, when one officer played a prank on him.
Whisenant said he respects officers for putting their lives on the line to protect others.
“I have to tell your stories,” he said.
The public’s response following the shooting deaths of Charlotte police officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton showed their admiration of law enforcement, Whisenant said.
He talked about watching residents stand five- and six-deep along the funeral procession route.
“They wanted you and they wanted me to see that they have a deep respect for law enforcement,” Whisenant said.
Optimist Club member Karl Hales said law enforcement officers serve as an important resource for youth, which the clubs are committed to supporting.
“Law enforcement has been part of youth instruction forever,” Hales said.
The Optimist Club recognized the following law enforcement officers:
n China Grove police Officer Jeffrey Washam;n East Spencer police Officer Mark Latchman;
nGranite Quarry police Cpl. Jason Page;
n Kannapolis police Officer Hershell Blalock, Jr.;
n Landis police Officer Michael File;
n N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement Agent Logan Shoaf;
n N.C. State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Renee Mullis;
n N.C. State Highway Patrol Trooper T.J. White;
n Rockwell police Officer Justin Miller;
n Rowan County Sheriff’s Deputy Wes Smith;
n Salisbury police Officer Joseph Miller;
n Spencer police Officer Anthony “Tony” Hinson;
n and Veterans Administration Medical Center police Officer James Heath.