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Veteran and young officers accept Rotary Club awards


John-Joseph DeGraff

Benjamin Freeze

Bethany Stotts

Heather White

Kevin Peoples

Marielle Hare

Robert Benton

Jason Verbeke

Bradford Jordan

Staff report

SALISBURY — Ten public servants in law enforcement, fire and rescue accepted plaques Tuesday as the Salisbury Rotary Club held its Community Service Recognition Day.

Sgt. Roger Mendenhall recognized honorees from the State Highway Patrol:

• Young Trooper: John-Joseph C. DeGraff came to Rowan from Surry County. In his first year, when he was involved in training, he logged 20 DWI arrests, 148 collision reports and 137 calls for service.

• Veteran Trooper: Trooper Benjamin Freeze, a graduate of South Rowan High School, has been with the patrol for eight years. Last year, he logged 72 DWIs, 191 collisions and 325 calls. He trained DeGraff.

Chris Soliz named honorees from Rowan County Emergency Services:

• Young Paramedic: Bethany Stotts has made an outstanding impression on her peers, actively supports the organization, and is a committed and reliable member of the Rowan EMS team.

• Veteran Paramedic: Capt. Heather White has 13 years of experience and many credentials and has fulfilled several roles at the agency, including pioneering a health and safety committee.

Sheriff Kevin Auten presented the top officers at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office:

• Young Deputy: Kevin Peoples, who went to North Rowan and Salisbury High schools, worked in the jail four years before joining the patrol in 2017. In one year, he made 26 drug arrests and found a fugitive from Georgia and a stolen $35,000 U-Haul, among many other things. Of the 67 reports he worked on, 38 were cleared by arrests and 21 by other means.

• Veteran Deputy: Sgt. Marielle Hare, an East Rowan graduate, works on the administrative staff in the detention center. “She runs the jail for the captain,” Auten said. He read from a brief essay Hare submitted, which ended with this: “I do believe that changing the world starts at home with your children.”

Chief Bob Parnell recognized award recipients from the Salisbury Fire Department, nominated from within the ranks and chosen by an outside committee:

• Justin Monroe Rookie Firefighter: Robert Benton received his education and training in Kentucky and moved to this area in 2016. He’s known for his consistency, teamwork and can-do attitude and has leadership qualities, Parnell said. He is a fire control Specialist 2.

• Vic Isler Veteran Firefighter: Jason Verbeke, also a fire control Specialist 2, is from Michigan and joined Salisbury Fire in 2013. He always comes to work with a positive attitude and best exemplifies the true meaning of brotherhood, Parnell said.

Police Chief Jerry Stokes recognized award winners from the Salisbury Fire Department:

• Young Officer: Detective Devin Barkalow has been with the department since 2015, starting out on patrol and becoming a narcotics detective in April 2017. Putting in long hours and showing dedication, he has seized thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs, Stokes said. He serves on the federal ATF task force to reduce gun violence countywide.

• Veteran Master Police Officer: Brad Jordan, a 30-year veteran of the force, is considered “a traffic god” by fellow officers when it comes to crash investigations and is an expert in court on traffic reconstructions, Stokes said. He’s reliable and the type of cop every chief wants. “I want an entire team of Brad Jordans,” Stokes said. Jordan retired in December but still works as a reserve officer.



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