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VCSO Honors Deputy, Detective, Telecommunicator, Civilian Employee, Volunteer Of The Year

Date Added: February 21, 2017 11:40 am

Andrew Gant
Public Information Office


Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood honored his first class of annual award recipients Monday night in a ceremony recognizing some of the VCSO’s best work of 2016.

"As an outsider coming in, I knew the organization was good, from working with the folks on the east side,” the sheriff told guests at the Athens Theatre in DeLand. “I didn't realize how great this organization was, how loaded with talent it is, and what a bunch of class individuals I am blessed to work with.”

The awards, Chitwood said, represented “just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on day in and day out in this organization.” The recipients were:

Volunteer of the Year Ted Wing, a retired technology professional who works in the VCSO’s Public Information Office but also works from home on projects for various divisions of the agency. He developed a database for modernizing and indexing the VCSO’s newspaper article archives for future access. He created and updated spreadsheet systems for the Citizen Observer Program and Special Projects, and he rebuilt and streamlined a database for Extraditions that significantly reduced workloads and increased efficiency and productivity. “I don’t know what we’d do without him, because he’s really expedited our workflow,” volunteer program coordinator Carol Keesecker said.

Civilian Employee of the Year Erika Stammer, who was instrumental in, among other cases, the identification and arrest of a suspect in the armed robbery of a DeLand-area Dollar General in April. Stammer matched several prints from the front counter of the store to the suspect – who had pointed a handgun at an employee and, as she told investigators later, had his finger on the trigger. Stammer’s work on scene and in the office helped investigators make an arrest quickly. Confronted by all the evidence against him, the suspect confessed and even implicated an accomplice: his girlfriend, who was also arrested. “She takes a lot of pride in the work that she produces – she likes challenges, she takes the initiative if she’s given a hard case to do,” her supervisor Mary Seney said. “Erika’s an asset to the Technical Services Unit and the Sheriff’s Office.”

When VCSO K-9 Forest was fatally wounded during an incident in November, Telecommunicator of the Year Breck Sanders was the original dispatcher on the call. He should have been home at the time, but he’d stayed late to help out because the shift was short-staffed. “Breck is a newer dispatcher, but he handled the call like a seasoned vet,” Telecommunicator Jennifer Clay wrote. He worked that call until he was told he had to leave, because he’d worked 18 hours. “He’s worked a lot of very hot calls and done an exemplary job,” his supervisor Tom Eggers said. “He really epitomizes what’s great about the Communications Center and the Sheriff’s Office, and it’s a pleasure having him on the shift.

Detective of the Year Roy Galarza was recognized for his relentless work in numerous cases as a detective – and in his off hours as a patrol deputy. “His determination, his passion, is just without a doubt,” his supervisor Sgt. Garey MacDowell said. “His tenacity to do the best job possible… He’s the go to guy.” Galarza’s work in 2016 included identifying the members of a ring responsible for a rash of thefts from businesses in the DeLand/DeLeon Springs area. Two of the suspects were also responsible for ramming a stolen truck through two convenience stores, then setting it on fire. They’d also used a shotgun to blast their way into the businesses. Galarza’s tireless work interviewing victims and witnesses and reviewing area surveillance footage led to the suspects – and took him deep into some woods, where he and MacDowell found a large garbage can full of stolen Florida Lottery tickets. His work put a stop to the theft ring, which was branching out into the Deltona and DeBary areas.

Over a long career, Deputy of the Year Jim Greene has become a leader out on patrol in the Daytona/Ormond areas. In 2016, he was instrumental in solving rashes of car breaks and stolen vehicles and apprehending fleeing drivers. In one case, he recovered a stolen vehicle that contained a high-capacity rifle, tactical gear, masks, flex cuffs and several other items resembling police equipment. Because of his experience on patrol, he has deep knowledge of both the citizens and the frequent offenders in the area where he works – and an ability to make quick arrests in cases that might otherwise go unsolved. In November, Greene responded to a plane crash, climbing into the downed aircraft to move debris and help get the victim to safety. “That’s how you do a job, that’s how you leave a legacy, and that’s being a good cop,” sheriff’s Capt. Charlie Brown said.

Greene, who was also deputy of the year in 2001, took the microphone Monday night to thank his wife and squad, but also spoke out in appreciation of anyone who ever handled a call with him, from the men and women on the road to the telecommunicators on the phones and radio.

“It’s a team effort,” Greene said. “That’s how it works. For me to get this and stand here before you, I represent all of you.”

Sheriff Chitwood also presented Greene with the agency’s Medal of Merit for his life-saving actions at the plane crash. Others receiving the Medal of Merit on Monday were:

  • Deputy Hector Rodriguez for risking his life to help remove a passenger who had become entrapped in a vehicle that had overturned and caught on fire.
  • Deputies Michael Belfiore and Jackie Mullins for their life-saving efforts in rescuing an autistic child from a pond.

The sheriff also presented two citizenship awards to:

  • Darren Peters, for his donations to fund events like K-9 Forest’s memorial service as well as Monday’s awards ceremony, and for his volunteer work clearing damage affecting deputies’ homes after Hurricane Matthew.
  • Matt Armstrong, a Walmart loss prevention officer who came to a deputy’s aid as the deputy was attempting to arrest a combative shoplifting suspect.

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