|Creating safe boating environment, honoring staff on law appreciation day July 2013 Wakulla Times article|
BY CHARLIE CREEL
With our weather getting hotter and school out for the summer I want to talk a little about how the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office makes Wakulla County a little safer on the waterways.
Boating under the influence (BUI) is a major concern when residents and visitors to our county enjoy our wonderful recreational activities. But we cannot allow boaters to be under the influence of alcohol or narcotics while they are in a vessel that could threaten the safety of others. As a result, our deputies will be on the WCSO search and rescue boat making sure nobody is under the influence in their vessel on what can be a very busy river.
We have already started patrols that have targeted underage drinking. We are also looking for swimmers who are too close to boat launching facilities. Swimming near boat launches poses a danger to both the swimmer and the boat operator so if deputies spot someone swimming near launch areas they will be asked to get out of the water at that location.
The WCSO wants to educate the public about safe boating and we are not out to issue citations until we have conducted educational sessions. However, as the summer wears on we will do less educating and more enforcement where citations are issued for violations.
The WCSO is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) where WCSO deputies will patrol the Wakulla River from the Upper Bridge near the Wakulla Springs State Park property to the Lower Bridge on U.S. Highway 98 and FWC officers will be patrolling from the Lower Bridge to Fort San Marcos de Apalache in St. Marks. Our joint goal is to have a safe summer of boating activities with no major incidents or accidents.
The sheriff’s office also receives a number of complaints from homeowners along the Wakulla River about the illegal use of private property such as boat docks. So with this in mind, we are planning to keep an eye on private property for trespassers and those individuals who have no business being where they are observed.
The WCSO is planning to be on the water a minimum of three days each week and additional patrol days will be added when manpower allows us to do so. There are no wake zones along the river as well which protect not only other boaters and those who use the river, but also the manatees who swim peacefully toward the refuge of Wakulla Springs State Park.
We don’t want a careless boater who is speeding along the river to strike and injure the gentle manatees and we don’t want anyone struck by a boat while they are using the river for other recreational activities.
I want to change gears slightly and talk about members of my staff. During the month of May the sheriff’s office recognizes members of the staff for their outstanding work.
The 2013 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year was Detective Rob Giddens. Giddens is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who joined the WCSO in September 2004. He worked his way up from Corrections Officer Assistant to Deputy Sheriff and transferred from Corrections to Road Patrol in 2005.
Giddens has worked in the Criminal Investigations Division Serving in property and persons crimes prior to his present assignment on the Youth and Community Services Unit (COPS grant program). Detective Giddens has served as a member of the SWAT Team, jail Extraction Team, Field Training Officer, Drug Lab Response Team, Honor Guard, Dive Team and is a member of the United States Marshal Fugitive Task Force for the region. In addition to his regular duties, Detective Giddens is routinely called to assist on tactical arrests and search warrant operations.
I use words such as “thorough, professional, disciplined and team work” to describe Detective Giddens work ethic. All of Detective Giddens performance evaluations reflect superior ratings. He takes great pride in his daily efforts and is a true team member of the WCSO.
Detention Deputy Randy Barnes was selected as the Correctional Officer of the Year. He joined the WCSO in March 2012 and quickly displayed the ability to perform all the tasks required of him. Barnes showed a positive attitude as he displayed proficiency in every area of the jail including tasks performed by supervisors.
Deputy Barnes was recently transferred to the position of Quartermaster within the jail. This position requires the officer to be level headed and have the ability to communicate with both staff and inmates. Deputy Barnes excels in both areas.
The duties of the Quartermaster include making sure all clothing and linens are washed, mattresses are sanitized, trustees are assigned to various jobs and making sure the inmate population is following hygiene requirements. Barnes and his work crew can be observed on cleaning details in the jail and in the administrative area of the WCSO as well as passing out of inmate’s canteen.
What makes Randy Barnes special is, after performing all of his tasks, he never hesitates to help the shift when needed. He is well respected by both the staff and inmates in the jail.
The Communications Officer of the Year was Ashley Chapman. She was hired on July 2, 2009 as a Call Taker. She worked her way up to Certified Call Taker and Certified Telecommunicator during her time with the WCSO. She was promoted to Communications Officer in May 2012.
During her time with the agency, she has become a valued employee and someone who can be counted on. Over the last year as a Communications Officer, she has proven to be someone that meets the needs of the citizens as well as the agency. The award recognizes her commitment to improvement and her desire to become a first rate communications officer.
Robert “Pete” Cochran was selected as the Civilian Employee of the Year. Cochran joined the WCSO Maintenance Division as Director on March 7, 2011. He worked as a fleet manager for the Hertz Corporation from 1994 to 2011 and has 22 years of maintenance management in his career.
Cochran was selected as the civilian employee because of his caring and professional attitude. The time of repairs have been cut dramatically and repeat repairs are almost non-existent. His efforts have helped reduce the cost of parts and labor and the expected maintenance costs are expected to be reduced by one-third.
Since taking over the maintenance division he has worked tirelessly to create a service style atmosphere. Pete describes other employees as customers and his division strives to provide customer satisfaction. This is a hard task when you are responsible for a 350 bed jail, administrative offices, emergency management, communications center, an offsite annex and a fleet of five dozen vehicles.
Brandon Willis was recognized as the WCSO Volunteer of the Year. Brandon will turn 24 this year and is the son of Gordon Willis and Lawanna Matthews. He is a lifelong resident of Wakulla County and a Wakulla High School graduate.
Brandon began his volunteer work in 2009 as a member of the WCSO Explorers Program as a high school student. He has continued to volunteer at the WCSO Training Center and Firing Range where he compiled more than 2,000 hours of volunteer time in 2012.
Brandon is very well thought of at the Range. He is an integral part of the operation and he has a good attitude while working well with the public. He projects the professionalism that I demand out of my employees when dealing with the public. His volunteer hours nearly match that of a fulltime employee.
I also gave out a “Special Hero Award” to Chayton Bussey. Bussey, 13, jumped into a swimming pool in March and rescued his two-year-old brother from drowning. Later the same day, he rescued another friend who was struggling with his swimming.
Chayton is serious about his academics as a member of the AB Honor Roll. He is also a football player and wrestler for the Riversprings Middle School Bears. He has a second degree black belt in taekwondo.
Tim Rose, owner of Mack’s Meats in Crawfordville, was also recognized with a Certificate of Appreciation for his donation and support of the Wakulla First Responder’s Relay for Life team. Tim has been touched by cancer and supported the American Cancer Society’s fundraiser by donating food items to support the WCSO members participating in the event.
Tim’s generosity and community minded spirit resulted in multiple hundreds of dollars going to cancer research. Tim can be counted on throughout the year to support causes to help those less fortunate in our community.
PICTURED FROM LEFT: WCSO Civilian of the Year Robert Cochran, WCSO Volunteer of the Year Brandon Willis, WCSO Communications Officer of the Year Ashley Chapman, Sheriff Charlie Creel, WCSO Correctional Officer of the Year Randy Barnes, WCSO Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Rob Giddens and Undersheriff Trey Morrison.
I want to wish everyone a safe and joyous July. Happy Birthday America!