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Public Safety Department standouts honored
Over barbecued hot dogs and hamburgers, seven employees of the Ceres Department of Public Safety were honored April 10 during the annual Law & Order Night hosted by the Ceres American Legion Post 491.

Nominated by their peers based on community involvement, outstanding accomplishments, "under the radar" employees, those who demonstrate leadership traits, and heroics, the name s were reviewed by a group of community members.

Honored were:

• Sgt. Danny Vierra - Police Officer of the Year.

• Reserve Police Officer Kiashira Ruiz - Reserve Police Officer of the Year.

• Captain Jeff Santos - Firefighter of the Year.

• Intern Firefighter David Steenburgh - Intern Firefighter of the Year.

• Community Services Officer Patty Maloy - Support Person of the Year.

• Chaplain Billybob Muirhead - Chaplain of the Year.

• Volunteer in Public Service Glen Safrit - Volunteer of the Year.

Chief Art de Werk commended all the honorees for "the highest level of public service."

"I have been associated with these employees for the last 12 years and have yet to feel anything less than heartfelt pride and admiration for them all," said deWerk.

"Police Officer of the Year" Sgt. Danny Vierra was unable to receive his honor but his daughter accepted on his behalf. DeWerk praised Vierra as a "confident and knowledgeable leader ... who brings out the best in the people he is responsible for."

Well-liked and affable, Vierra was described as courteous and helpful to others and is highly respected by his peers.

Vierra was hired as a full-time police officer in April 1995 and rose through the ranks as a field training officer, detective, traffic/motorcycle officer in 2003 and then as sergeant in 2005. He has worked traffic and patrol sergeant positions and is currently is the president of the Ceres Peace Officers Association.

"Reserve Police Officer of the Year" Kiashira Ruiz was hired as a reserve on Oct. 11, 2010.

DeWerk called Ruiz a "hard working, easy-going" and always available to cover shift.

Officer Ruiz completed her field training program earlier this year.

"She is always enthusiastic at the work place and eager learn," said deWerk. "She routinely volunteers to take calls for service that are unfamiliar to her in an effort to expand her knowledge of the job. She willingly and promptly responds to the department with little notice to cover the absences of full time patrol officers when unforeseen circumstances arise.

The Gustine native said she loves police work and crossed her fingers for good luck, as she said, "I'm going like this was a full-time job."

"Firefighter of the Year" Captain Jeff Santos was hired as a firefighter in 1993 and promoted to captain in 2003.

Santos was credited with assuming many fire marshal responsibilities, including turning the city business inspection program from doing none, to every business now being inspected. He is also working on putting together a fire/arson investigation team which would allow Ceres to independently investigate fires without having to call an investigator out from an outside agency.

Santos presently works out of Ceres Fire Station 4 on Fowler Road.

Hired in July 2010, "Intern Firefighter of the Year" David Steenburgh was described as extremely dedicated and dependable.

Interns are required to work 72 hours per month but Steenburgh puts in well above that amount. His peers say he always has a positive attitude and is the first to lend a hand when anyone needs help.

Steenburgh has received hazardous materials handling courses and attended officer level courses for training instructor and command duties.

David has volunteered his time alongside firefighters at the Ceres Street Faire, Fill The Boot for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and the Ceres Firefighters Softball Tournament.

"Support Person of the Year" honors went to Community Service Officer (CSO) Patty Maloy who has spent 20 years with Ceres Police.

"I love the people I work with," said Maloy.

Maloy signed up as a police volunteer in 1993 and worked into a full-time vehicle abatement officer, juvenile diversion officer, became juvenile diversion program coordinator and became a CSO in 2007.

As a CSO, Patty frees up sworn officers' time by responding to non-emergency calls such as burglaries, thefts, runaways, and other calls where a report must be written despite no suspect information.

De Werk said Maloy is a very productive employee who excels in her work. She gets along with her co-workers and citizens, is professional, dependable, and unafraid of hard work, he added.

When employees were being laid off three years ago, Chief de Werk called Maloy and another employee into his office, explaining that due to employee cuts, their positions were being eliminated. Because of their tenure with the city, Patty and the other employee would be able to move into the patrol CSO positions. While the other employee fought the move, Patty's response was that she would go where needed, that she was happy to be employed.

"Chaplain of the Year" Billybob Muirhead volunteer countless hours to the community when a citizen has lost a loved one. As a chaplain, he consoles family members and assists in making arrangements for the passing family member.

An ordained minister who has a lay ministry at Ceres Christian Church, Muirhead became a chaplain five years ago as a direct way to give back to the community when citizens need help. Today he is coordinator of the volunteer program.

"It's a tough job but a necessary job," said Muirhead. He said he relies on God to give him the actions and words to help others who at times deal with family members of those who have died or endure a tragedy.

Glen Safrit, who was honored as "Volunteer of the Year," came to Ceres in 1945. After working 25 years at John Deere Tractor on Crowslanding Road, Safrit signed up in 2004 to become a member of Volunteers in Public Safety (VIPS).

"It's a chance to give back a little bit," said Safrit. "And I'm not a spring chicken so it allows me to keep my hand at play."

In eight years, Glen has donated thousands of hours to provide service to the community. He worked 500 of the 2,500 VIPS hours volunteered in 2011. He was lauded as always professional, pleasant and conversational.

Today Safrit serves as a training officer for the new members of the VIPS program. he also volunteers time to patrol neighborhoods and shopping centers. He has been instrumental in public services such as fingerprinting children and supporting community service groups such as the Ceres Hands of Compassion. Safrit has made himself available to help patrol on major events at all hours of the night.