Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce expanded their recognition of outstanding public safety professionals this year to include their first award to a paramedic. Lt. James T. Morris, Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department, assigned to Station 11, Penn Daw, was named the organization's "Paramedic of the Year."
In making the award during the annual Chamber Holiday Celebration, called "Boots & Bells," at Waterford Recreation Center in Springfield, Dec. 14, Kahan Dhillon, Jr., Chamber president, noted, "Lt. Morris has literally responded to thousands of calls for help from residents. His continued dedication to providing the best possible service to the people he serves, while mentoring others to succeed, exemplifies the vision of what ‘Paramedic of the Year’ represents."
Morris, one of the first responders at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, joined the department in 1982. For the past 10 years he has been assigned to Medic 411 in the Beacon Hill area.
As noted by Chamber Chairman Barbara H. Sullivan, "The Public Safety Awards are a highlight of our Chamber year." Each year they are presented to a "Firefighter of the Year" and a "Police Officer of the Year" from both Mount Vernon and Lee districts.
THIS YEAR'S RECIPIENT of "Firefighter of the Year" was Deputy Chief Michael L. Wood who served as incident commander during the department's response to the devastating flooding in the Huntington community. Joining the department in 1992 as a firefighter, Lt. Wood has worked his way up through the ranks.
Wood planned, organized and executed Fairfax County's emergency response efforts to the Huntington disaster. "With his calm attitude, limitless initiative and steadfast leadership he was able to seamlessly merge several county agencies into one Emergency Response Team," Dhillon said.
On the police side of the award ceremony, Detective Robert D. Hartford, Jr., was named "Police Officer of the Year" for Mount Vernon Station. Hartford initiated the use of personalized letters for his cases as a means to inform citizens of recent criminal activity in their community and solicit their assistance.
Hartford worked with ATF to establish E-Trace which allows desktop access to ATF files in conducting firearms traces. This greatly reduces the time needed to trace weapons thought to have been used in the commission of a crime. He is considered Mount Vernon Station's "expert on firearm matters," according to the Chamber's awards presentation.
Police Officer First Class Eric T. Nelson received the Lee District "Police Officer of the Year" for Franconia Station. An 11-year veteran of the Fairfax County Police Department, Nelson is a squad leader in both criminal and traffic related offenses, and has served as a School Resource Officer, according to the Chamber.
Nelson recently solved a string of vehicle tampering incidents that had defied solution by tracing information he discovered at one incident scene back to its source through his knowledge of area residents, according to Dhillon's commentary. "PFC Nelson's dedication to duty, professionalism and effective police strategies are qualities that reflect his entire career," Dhillon said.
Assisting Dhillon in making the presentations was Washington Redskins running back Santana Moss. Serving as the evening's Master of Ceremonies was Chamber member Steve Chaconas.