Sheriff hands out Walworth County honors
When cries for help came, they were the ones there to rescue two young girls.
When a second man, about two weeks later, picked up a rifle and threatened to kill his family, they were there to secure the location and apprehend the suspect.
Through it all, they remained calm, professional. They were shot at, but despite extreme danger, they acted heroically, proving themselves to be the “bravest of the brave.”
They are the members of the Walworth County SWAT Team, a group of 42 men and women who were honored Friday at the Sheriff’s Office Awards Ceremony.
“To put yourself in harm’s way to protect others is the noblest of all causes in life,” Sheriff David Graves said.
The SWAT team wasn’t alone.
Sheriff Graves and Undersheriff Kurt Picknell handed out awards to dozens of outstanding members of the sheriff’s office, who work to protect the residents of Walworth County.
“When I was coming up through the ranks, someone told me that if I ever became a chief executive law enforcement officer, I should surround myself with people who are smarter than me, people who have a great work ethic, people with new ideas that are willing to challenge you and them on a daily basis,” Graves said
“Look around you,” the sheriff told a crowd in Elkhorn Friday. “I think I’ve done that.”
Other awards recipients were:
Distinguished Service Unit Award: K-9 Unit, Dive Team, SWAT Team and communications officers team. The K-9 unit celebrated last a year a milestone, as Wisconsin’s longest-running dual purpose canine program, working on drug detection and suspect tracking and apprehension. The Dive Team continues to excel, going places “most of us would never want to go,” Graves said. He also gave an award to communications officers for distinguished behind-the-scenes support to deputies.
Public Service Award: Jeff and Jacob Papcke, for saving a man who fell in the frigid March waters of Turtle Lake. At one point, Jacob jumped in the water to push the three men to shore, wearing only pajama bottoms—no shirt, no shoes. His shirt had been wrapped around the victim.
Life Saving Award: Correctional officers Kurt Niemetscheck and Mark Schmidt. Niemetscheck saved an inmate’s life by quickly realizing the man was lying on his stomach with a sheet tied around his neck. Schmidt’s medical expertise as an emergency medical technician were crucial in saving another inmate, who was slipping in and out of consciousness.
Deputy of the Year: Jason Hintz, for outstanding contributions along with his K-9 unit partner, Ajax. “Jason is a very dedicated deputy,” Graves said. “He comes to work everyday to do more than his job.”
Correctional Officer of the Year: Sheila Peters, for her outstanding attitude and willingness to go above and beyond what is required. “She is self-motivated and is always willing to assist her fellow employees,” Graves said.
Civilian Employee of the Year: Wendy Werner, for outstanding administrative service. As Graves’ and Picknell’s secretary, Werner works far beyond her duties. “If you want something right the first time, ask Wendy,” Graves said.
Distinguished Service Award: Correctional officers Nichole Ziino, Howard Hagen and Bev Junk. Ziino has taken additional duties beyond her job, including updating the county’s DNA database, when the State Crime Lab realized there were thousands of missing DNA samples statewide.
Honored posthumously, Hagen taught his colleagues to maintain professionalism and dignity even as he battled a terminal illness. Junk has been the chairwoman of the awards committee, which organizes the annual honor ceremony.
Certificates of Appreciation were given to Bill Ghiselli (Elkhorn Collision Center) and Carl Schultz (Five Star Race Car Bodies). Ghiselli contributed time and materials to return an armored vehicle from military surplus to call-ready status. Schultz donated time and materials to replace the armored vehicle’s glass after it was shot by a hostile man during a standoff.