By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
A prominent group of law enforcement personnel from Kern and Tulare Counties, along with those from State and Federal agencies, banded together to celebrate one of their own on May 8 at the 2018 Officer of the Year Award luncheon hosted by the Exchange Club of Kern Valley.
Paradise Cove Restaurant was filled to capacity with officers and staff of the Sheriff’s Offices of Kern and Tulare Counties, California Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Kern County Parks and Recreation, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Kern County Animal Control. The importance of this award was further demonstrated by the attendance of Kern County dignitaries District Attorney (DA) Lisa Green, who was the luncheon speaker, as well as by Sheriff Donny Youngblood and Assistant DA Scott Spielman.
This was the 41st year the Exchange Club has sponsored the award, which recognizes an officer for exemplary dedication above and beyond the call of duty in serving the Kern River Valley (KRV) community. Each law enforcement agency working within and around the KRV submitted a nominee for Officer of the Year, and a selection committee made up of law enforcement officers chose one from that list as the 2018 awardee. The identity of the winner was kept as secret as possible until it was announced at the luncheon.
Before announcing the Officer of the Year, Exchange Club Master of Ceremonies Dave Freeland thanked all the law enforcement officers for everything they do for the KRV community, and assured them that they are not taken for granted. He applauded the cooperation shown between all the agencies to assure the safety of the community, regardless whether they are a federal, state, or local authority, saying, “There is no turf protection here, and we should all be proud of that.”
The significance of that last statement could not have been truer as Freeland announced that Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Minor had been selected as Officer of the Year by his peers from the primarily Kern County area. This was the first time in 41 years that a Tulare County officer had been selected. The room erupted in applause as Deputy Minor made his way to the podium to accept his award.
Deputy Minor was overwhelmed by the honor, saying “I never thought I would be up here.” He said that because of their large patrol area, he and his partner formed a close working relationship with other agencies to make sure that there was always extra law enforcement coverage to maintain safety. Deputy Minor then recognized and thanked his family in the audience, noting that his son had traveled to this event from Utah.
Tulare County Sheriff’s Captain John Gonzalez came to the podium and described Deputy Minor as always being dedicated to his work and family; is honest, fair and professional; and continually offers to help others. He said that in recommending Deputy Minor as 2018 Officer of the Year, the selection committee issued a statement saying, “This guy is the greatest. He’s always patrolling the upper canyon, and he’s there when you need him.”
Certificates of recognition were presented to Deputy Minor by representatives for Congressman Kevin McCarthy; State Senator Jean Fuller; Assemblyman Devon Mathis; and County Supervisors for District 1, Mick Gleason, and District 3, Mike Maggard.
Before the awardee was announced, Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green spoke about the evolution of the state criminal justice system during her 35 years with the DA’s office. She briefly discussed the Kern County DA’s new Family Justice Center for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, saying that 25 families from the Kern River Valley were assisted there during the first three months of this year. Green congratulated the 2018 Officer of the Year and thanked all the partners in law enforcement for their defense of the public’s safety.
Fifteen former Officers of the Year attended the luncheon to further recognize and cheer the 2018 honoree. Of those 15 past recipients, Larry Heirigs, the 1988 recipient with the California Highway Patrol, traveled the longest distance from Grass Valley, Calif., to attend. Jim Young, from the Kern County Sheriff’s Department, was the attendee who received his award the longest time ago for his 1979 honor.