Four individuals were surprised, humbled and honored by the recognition they received at Hesperia's Public Safety Recognition Awards luncheon, while those who chose them for the acclaim expressed certainty that they'd made the right decision.
The third annual event, hosted by the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce at the Courtyard by Marriott on Nov. 19, was created to recognize employees and volunteers with the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Hesperia station and San Bernardino County Fire Department's Hesperia posts who work to make the community a safer place to live.
"We should always be looking for the good in people and when we see it, we should honor it," said Mayor Russ Blewett, who helped present the awards along with other community leaders.
Jeromy Snyder, a deputy for six years, was awarded Officer of the Year because of his "think out of the box, teamwork and tenacity," the event program stated. Snyder was recognized as a "leading deputy in the area of tagging and gang activities," with Chief Nils Bentsen pointing out that his work in tracking gangs has helped decrease the tagging problem in Hesperia.
"I don't think I work too much harder than the other guys at the station," Snyder said, expressing his surprise at the recognition. He said he enjoys being a deputy because every day is "always a challenge."
Curtis Malloy, a firefighter paramedic for eight years, was awarded Firefighter of the Year for his help as "crew boss" in developing the county Fire Department's hand crew, spending many off-duty hours working with the group that helps battle wild land fires.
Malloy's career began in 1995 in Apple Valley. During the last 17 years, he's worked for the Bureau of Land Management, Del Rosa Hot Shots and the Apple Valley Fire Protection District.
When hired by the county Fire Department to work at Hesperia Station #302 in 2010, Hesperia North Desert Division Chief Britt Sipe said Malloy brought that "specialty" to the department and applied those skills to the new hand crew program.
Hesperia Battalion Chief Chris Norton, Malloy's uncle, called him a "beast," explaining that Malloy is "tough" and his work in wild land firefighting is "a game only certain few want to play."
"Drive and passion is what keeps me fighting fires and pushing my crew," Malloy said.
Nicholas "Nick" Sewell, 19, captain of the sheriff's Hesperia Explorer Post, was awarded Volunteer of the Year because of his "devotion to law enforcement" and his time spent helping the community, according to an event program. As captain, his duties include organizing meetings, discipline within the unit, coordinating training and community projects.
"Nick excelled in all areas of leadership," said Deputy Lisa Guerra, Hesperia Explorer Post advisor. She said he was available and willing to tackle or delegate any task that needed to be accomplished in preparation for the group's annual haunted house fundraiser.
Sewell, who is pursuing law enforcement because he likes helping people, said he was "very honored" to be included alongside his fellow honorees.
"Couldn't be prouder," said Sewell's mother, Brenda. She said she watched his interest in law enforcement at age 4 grow to include participation in the Explorer Program along with an application to be a deputy in Riverside, which has put him on "the path to his passion" — a great reward for her as a parent.
Sue Rose, spokeswoman for the sheriff's Hesperia station, was awarded Employee of the Year for her "multi-tasking and organizing efforts" of duties such as: informing citizens with press releases, crime free housing meetings, citizen ride-alongs and events like Hesperia Days Parade, Hesperia Safety Fair and National Night Out.
"I'm humbled," Rose said. "I can think of many others that are far more deserving than I … [that] don't always get the recognition they deserve. On their behalf, I'll accept it."
Rose said one of her main goals in her position is to "bridge the gap that sometimes exists between citizens and law enforcement," working to point out the good things other people in her station and community are doing.
"She goes above and beyond in everything she does," Bentsen said. "[It was time] to point to her."
With so much of their job spent "on the other side" with people who don't appreciate them, Bentsen views the luncheon as an opportunity for deputies to be awarded for their work and see citizens who are thankful for their services.