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Five public safety standouts noted for top service
Five members of the Ceres Department of Public Safety team have been honored as the top in their field.

The five are:

• Derek Perry, Police Officer of the Year.

• Brittney England, Reserve Officer of the Year.

• Joseph Spani, Firefighter of the Year.

• Tony Nascimento, Intern Firefighter of the Year.

• Sara Whittle, Support Person of the Year.

The five were honored at Monday evening's City Council meeting and at a Tuesday evening recognition dinner held by the Smyrna Masonic Lodge.

According to Chief Art deWerk, Detective Perry, a 10-year veteran of Ceres Police Department, is "one of these extremely tenacious people who loves solving homicides." He helped clear seven homicide cases and has a 100 percent clearance rate.

"This is due to his intelligence and innate sense of solving crimes," said deWerk.

England was praised as one of the few reserves who can patrol solo and is eager to take a shift at the drop of a hat. She has given 500 hours to be able to work for the city.

"Not only does she do excellent police work and has a knack for getting along with people under difficult circumstances, but when we run a person short on a shift, she drops everything that is going on in her personal life and shows up to assist us at a very minimal compensation level. She and her family make sacrifices to pull this off."

Ceres has few reserve officers because of the high level of training and low level of compensation, said deWerk.

Firefighter Spani was noted for his smile, overall attitude and quality of work. DeWerk said Spani has been in charge of the Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraiser for the past two years, which has raised $19,000.

"You can't pull things like that off without having a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, a lot of organizational skills and the willing followers within the department to assist. It's a big effort. I don't think without Joseph we would have had that kind of success."

With the department for four years, deWerk said Spani is a low-key and hard working.

Nascimento has spent a lot of personal time filling in shifts in nearly a volunteer role as he seeks to become a regular firefighter.

"He's stopped at nothing to get all the training that he possibly could and therefore become one of the best reserve firefighters around," said deWerk of Nascimento.

Whittle was hired five years ago as a dispatcher.

"A dispatcher's job is an extremely difficult, challenging and frankly thankless job from what I've seen over the years. Sarah was nominated by her peers ... because despite how trying that job is and how rude some people in the public can be and how demanding the job is and the multi-tasking that goes on, she always brings with her an attitude of productiveness and positiveness. It's hard being positive when you're stuck in a room where you can't see out and all you're doing is handling innumerable radio calls during the course of a shift. It's just very demanding. We need people like Sarah t help maintain morale."

Nominations for the honors came from within the department and a committee.