For the seventh year running, a selection of Oakdale’s finest public service employees received the red carpet treatment Tuesday evening, Feb. 9 at the awards dinner event held at the community center, hosted by the dual Rotary Clubs of Oakdale.
Jon Matoza, President of the Oakdale Sunrise Rotary Club led the evening with a sincere shout out to the men and women of public service, saying, “What you do for us is very appreciated.” Then he added, “Everybody worked hard today to put this evening together. Quite frankly, everyone in this room needs to be recognized. Thank you for making the choice you have and that you choose to serve in Oakdale. It’s a privilege and an honor for the Rotary Clubs to salute our very best.”
Oakdale Rural Fire Chief Lee Winton kicked off the sweetheart-themed event with the introduction of his award winners, Lt. Adam French, firefighter of the year and Robert Shelp, volunteer firefighter of the year.
“This is a class act dinner,” Winton started off by saying. “We are truly blessed in the Oakdale area to have such a fine group of individuals.”
Winton shared that he knew French from his teaching days at the fire academy and that the recent death of French’s father was a blow to the family. Both French and Shelp suffered losses last year, Winton said.
“He’s a real go-to guy,” Winton said of French.
French took the stage and thanked his wife. “It’s been a tough year. It just makes you realize how important family and friends are.”
Shelp added similar statements, adding that the rural station has been very supportive throughout the loss of his mother. “It’s great to have brothers in the fire service and ambulance.”
Oakdale City Fire Chief Mike Botto took the stage and introduced his firefighter of the year, Kevin Wise.
Wise, currently the president of the Oakdale Fire Association, sponsored himself through the fire academy and was described by Botto as “driven.”
As he accepted the award, Wise said, “It’s an honor and a pleasure to be selected by my fellow firefighters for this award.”
John Friel, Chief Executive Officer for Oak Valley Hospital, along with Ray Leverett, Director of Pre-hospital Emergency Services introduced the EMT of the Year, Mike Tobin, and the Paramedic of the Year, Patricia Oberdieck.
Oakdale Police Chief Marty West introduced the department’s top cop, Rockford Anderson and Kelly Vassallo, Professional Support Staff of the Year. Other top mentions were Matt Orr, Volunteer of the Year, John Deming, Reserve Officer of the Year, and Fred Wert award winners, Ann Farmer, Armand Vera, and Vicki Thayer.
West called Anderson “very thorough” with a “nose for crime” saying that Anderson earned the award from his peers by making more arrests than any other officer in 2009.
“He’s genuinely a nice guy,” West said of the man who logged 232 arrests and countless citations. “He always takes a moment to say ‘good morning chief’.”
West said Vassallo, a single mother of two small sons, was known for her passion for animals and “responding quickly” to calls for service.
Vassallo concluded the evening and was brief in her acceptance, smiling as she summed up the sentiment expressed by nearly all the honorees, as she said, “I’m very humbled by this award. Thank you.”