For the fifth year in a row, police officers, firefighters, and dispatchers from throughout Oxford were honored during a special awards ceremony hosted by Oxford American Legion Post 108 and sponsored by the Oxford American Legion Ladies Auxiliary Unit 108 on Feb. 12.
A large group of public safety and public works personnel received awards and certificates to commend them for their hard work and dedication to the community.
Among those awards, Sergeant Kelly Kilgore was honored as the “Most Outstanding Firefighter of the Year.”
Having joined the Oxford Fire Department in 2015, Fire Chief Pete Scholz said Kilgore has taken on a leadership role within the department in the years since he came on board.
“(Kelly) has worked his way up through the department and has grown to become a great leader in our department,” said Scholz. “He always has something good to say about everybody and looks for the best in everybody he can find… and it is with great honor and pride that I present this award.”
Kilgore said it’s been a pleasure working alongside other Oxford safety personnel and was humbled to receive the award.
“This is really a surprise. I would have never guessed in a million years that I would have gotten this this year. I really appreciate it,” Kilgore said.
Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputy Amy Wakerly was one of the officers honored as the “Most Outstanding Police Officer of the Year.”
Wakerly, who joined the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department in March 1996, was chosen in honor of her quick actions during a Dec. 31 head-on collision, on M-24 near Oakwood Road, which sent four people to the hospital.
According to Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Patterson, when Wakerly arrived to the scene, a 19-year-old Oxford Township woman was being pulled from a Dodge Durango by citizens after it had caught fire.
Waverly was informed that there were three people still inside the nearby Dodge Durango.
“Deputy Wakerly, without hesitation, braved the flames and went to the Impala to extract the occupants,” said Patterson. “She
removed a 7-year-old boy that was crying and complaining of arm pain. Deputy Wakerly handed the child off to a citizen.
Deputy Wakerly again put aside her own personal safety, braved the flames and smoke and went back to the vehicle to extract a 5-year-old girl. Deputy Wakerly supported the girl’s neck and observed her for injuries.”
It was later learned that the little girl had a fractured neck, which required surgery. The young boy had a brain hemorrhage, a punctured lung, and a broken arm, according to Patterson.
“If not for the heroic actions of deputy Wakerly, both children might have perished in the flames of the burning Durango. But she put her safety aside and should be recognized for her actions that were above and beyond the call of duty. We’re very proud of you,” added Patterson.
Wakerly later told this reporter that she was thankful to be able to serve the Oxford community among such supportive company.
“It’s an honor,” Wakerly told this reporter. “It’s a privilege to serve this township and this community and the great group of guys that I work with… the fire department and the Oxford Police Department. We all just work together as a team and it’s an honor.”
For the Oxford Police Department’s “Most Outstanding Police Officer of the Year Award,” Village Police Officer Sean Brown was chosen.
Brown has been a member of the Oxford Police Department since 2012.
After first serving as a reserve officer, he proceeded to put himself through the Oakland police academy and became a certified police officer in 2013.
According to Village Police Chief Mike Neymanowski, Brown was selected for taking on a leadership role in community traffic safety and the professionalism he maintains while enforcing it.
“While keeping the community safe with his regular duties, Officer Brown takes time to listen to citizens and engages his duties with a positive attitude. He has received several letters of appreciation from citizens for his service in the community,” said Neymanowski.
Receiving the first-ever “Reserve Officer of the Year” award was Corporal David Zanin.
“Corporal Zanin, over the past two years, has put in a total of 617 hours of volunteer time and has recently been promoted to corporal in our reserve division. Corporal Zanin has and continues to go above and beyond his normal duties to provide exemplary service in the Oxford Police Department,” said Oxford Village Police Sgt. Mike Solwold.
To Zanin, the time he has devoted to the Oxford Village Police Department was time spent doing what he loves.
“I was a little surprised,” said Zanin. “But it’s always an honor to receive an award for doing what you’re doing and for doing the work that you do and to be recognized is a good thing.”
Before the ceremony was closed, Neymanowski, who is retiring, was honored for the nearly 50 years he spent in law enforcement.
Neymanowski has served as chief of the village department since February 2000, following the dissolution of the joint, township-village police agency.
His last day was Tuesday, Feb. 14.
“(To be) able to do this for almost five decades… That’s incredible, it’s just incredible. With that, I’d like to thank Chief Neymanowski for five decades of law enforcement service,” said Solwold, who will serve as interim police chief.
Although Neymanowski’s retirement will mean the end of his career, he said it also heralds a new beginning for he and his wife, Kristine.
“I’m just humbled right now… I’ve been blessed with this long career… I’m humbled to have served such a great community as Oxford. Great citizens, the working relationship I had with Oakland County, the fire department… To each and every one of you, thank you very much,” said Neymanowski.