By Keysha Drexel
The city of Homewood recognized its 2013 Employees of the Year on Jan. 21 at the Homewood Chamber of Commerce luncheon at The Club.
Ted Springfield was named Police Officer of the Year, Adam Ashworth was named Firefighter of the Year and the City Employee of the Year Award went to Don Evans, a security guard at the Homewood Public Library.
Homewood Mayor Scott McBrayer said he believes Homewood has “the finest police department and fire department in the country” and that he’s always amazed when he looks at the statistics each year to see how many calls each department answered.
“Every day, these brave men and women put their lives on the line for us,” he said.
The Homewood Police Department answered more than 33,000 calls in 2013, McBrayer said, and stopped more than 10,000 vehicles.
“The police department issued 6,889 tickets last year, an 8 percent increase in the tickets issued,” he said. “Every time they do that, they potentially save lives.”
In presenting the Police Officer of the Year Award, Police Chief Jim Roberson said selecting the award winner each year is a difficult task.
“It’s really difficult to determine just one person that distinguishes themselves because they all do such a great job,” Roberson said.
Roberson said he selected Springfield as the 2013 winner because of his dedication to helping the department in any way he can.
“He has been with us for almost 12 years and has led the department in arrests and citations,” Roberson said. “He has worked in patrol, the honor guard, on the tactical team and anywhere else we needed him.”
In accepting the award, Springfield said he previously served on the police force in Bessemer and was glad to be in Homewood.
“The experience has been like night and day,” he said. “I really appreciate this award, and I enjoy working in Homewood.”
Springfield thanked his colleagues and friends during his acceptance speech.
“I want to thank my wife, Molly,” he said. “She’s been with me through it all and has had to deal with the constant fear of what we do.”
The Homewood Fire Department last year responded to more than 3,000 fire calls, McBrayer said.
“About 64 percent of the time, those were medical emergencies. The most popular times for the fire department to get calls are at 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.,” he said. “Thank you for all you do to protect our city.”
In making the presentation of the Firefighter of the Year Award, Fire Chief John Bresnan said he was happy to bestow the award on a firefighter who “has dedicated his life to learning about the fire service.”
Ashworth was born and raised in Homewood, Bresnan said, and continues to make his hometown proud with his service and dedication.
“He has a number of specialties he works in, including rope rescue, trench rescue, and he also helped develop one of our classes to teach the guys how to use the Bobcat,” he said.
The department has the earth mover to use in cases of inclement weather or other emergencies where large tree limbs and other debris are blocking emergency routes.
“He’s been instrumental in developing that class and making sure that we all know how to use that piece of equipment so that we can better do our jobs,” Bresnan said.
Ashworth said he was deeply honored by the award and thanked his colleagues and his family for their support.
“I would also like to thank my wife,” he said. “Our families provide a lot of support so that we can do what we do.”
Before he presented the City Employee of the Year Award, the mayor praised all of the city employees and elected and appointed officials.
He said Linda Cook is “one of the best city clerks in the state” and thanked John Morgan, the city’s magistrate; James Jakes with the IT department; Jim Wyatt, the chief building inspector; Hunter Simmons in the 911 call center; Gordon James of fleet maintenance; Berkley Squires, the director of the public works department, and Melody Salter, the finance director.
He also thanked Mike Kendrick, city attorney, and J.J. Bischoff, chief of staff.
“And for the second year in a row, Debbie Faught with the library has produced the Employee of the Year,” he said. “Debbie and the library board work hard to keep the fine library tradition alive in Homewood.”
McBrayer said he was having a hard time deciding which employee would win the 2013 award until he read Faught’s letter nominating Evans for the honor.
Evans, who has been a security guard at the library since August 2009, was nominated for the award for going above and beyond the call of duty, Faught said.
In the fall of 2013, one of the library’s regular patrons became ill, and Evans, on his own time, visited the patron and went to get groceries and run errands for him while he convalesced, Faught said.
“Back in October, Don went to check on the patron and couldn’t get him to the door, so he called the police,” Faught said. “The patron had fallen and had been in his tub for several days, and Don is credited with saving his life. We know libraries change lives every day, but we usually leave the lifesaving to the police and fire departments.”
In accepting the City Employee of the Year Award, Evans said he is blessed to work with Faught and the rest of the library staff and said his tenure at the library has been anything but dull.
“I think it was the second month I was there and I was watching one of the monitors in one of the children’s rooms, and these three women started fighting and hair was flying everywhere, and I remember thinking, ‘Lord, am I going to be able to do this?’ I feel very fortunate to be here,” Evans said.
McBrayer also gave his annual State of the City Address at the event.
The city is projected to end fiscal year 2013 with a surplus more than $286,000, the mayor said.
“Since I was elected mayor in 2008, the city has ended every single year with a surplus,” McBrayer said. “It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it.”
The city is moving ahead with several capital projects, McBrayer said, including construction of the community center, the Shades Creek Greenway project and the addition of several new sidewalks.
“Capital projects continue and prove to the residents that they have a government that can work within a budget,” the mayor said.
McBrayer said the city continues to attract new businesses and pointed to the openings of Fresh Market, the Restaurant Depot and Pep Boys. He said the city is also working on bringing a Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins franchise to the city.
The mayor said Homewood will welcome a new Sears outlet in Wildwood this year and that the Ohio-based Designer Shoe Warehouse, or DSW, is planning to open a location in Homewood in 2014.
“Homewood continues to move forward, despite the economy,” he said. “It’s not a story for naysayers and cynics and those who speak of doom and gloom. Instead, it’s the gallant chronicle of the optimist.”