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Chamber Salutes Twelve Local Heroes

Chamber Salutes Twelve Local Heroes

Member News Event Partnership for a Sustainable Community
CHAPEL HILL, NC: Last night, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce honored twelve local heroes during “Salute to Community Heroes,” the 16th annual awards ceremony presented by AT&T and sponsored by Hendrick Subaru Southpoint.
“Last night, we honored twelve local heroes who have demonstrated remarkable, selfless acts of service,” said Aaron Nelson, President and CEO of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce. “These heroes among us work day-in and day-out to make our community a safe and special place to live, work, and raise a family. They deserve this recognition and our sincerest gratitude.”

The 2018 Community Heroes

  1. Sergeant Chris Burnette, UNC Department of Public Safety Officer of the Year 

  2. Sergeant Ryan Daniels, Carrboro Police Officer of the Year 

  3. Relief Driver David Riggs, Carrboro Firefighter of the Year 

  4. Lieutenant Anne Wandishin, South Orange Rescue Squad Member of the Year 

  5. Officer German Barcenas, Chapel Hill Police Officer of the Year

  6. Assistant Chief Jeff Cabe, Chapel Hill Firefighter of the Year 

  7. Sergeant Katie Spear, Orange County Sheriff Employee of the Year

  8. Captain Andrew (Andy) Werner, Orange County Emergency Services Employee of the Year

  9. Jackie Cole, Jim Gibson Volunteer of the Year 

  10. Linda Convissor, Town and Gown Award 

  11. Keith Taylor, D.D.S., Irene Briggaman Lifetime Achievement Award

  12. Robert Dowling, Citizen of the Year 

The twelve honorees, including eight officers and four community members, were peer-selected for their valuable contributions to their departments and service to our community. The selection committee included: Camille Berry, Irene Briggaman, Anthony Carey, David Newton, Luke Riggsbee, Clay Schossow and Tom Wiltberger. A special award was given as a surprise to Orange County Director of Emergency Services, Dinah Jeffries: 2018 Emergency Services Officer of the Year.

The Officer Awards were presented by Robert Doreauk, Regional Director of External Affairs, AT&T with UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken, Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle, Carrboro Police Chief Willie Horton, Carrboro Fire Chief Susanna Williams, South Orange Rescue Squad Chief Matthew Mauzy, South Orange Rescue Squad Board Chair Fred Stipe, Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger, Chapel Hill Police Chief Chris Blue, Chapel Hill Fire Chief Matt Sullivan, Chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners Penny Rich, Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood, Orange County Emergency Services Director Dinah Jeffries. 

The Community Awards were presented by Gerald Ramoin, Executive General Manager, Hendrick Southpoint Auto Mall with Community Home Trust Development and Communications Manager Camille Berry, Enitech LLC President Antwine Jackson, Tri Local Realty LLC Broker/Owner/REALTOR Brett Bushnell, and Joel I Levy CPA PLCC President Joel Levy:

In addition to the public commendation, certificate, and trophy, each honoree received a beautiful portrait captured by talented local photographer Lili Engelhardt. The portraits were framed by celebrated local artist Steven Ray Miller, displayed during the ceremony, and gifted to each honoree at the conclusion of the event. 

The awards ceremony was held in the Atrium of University Place with 200 attendees, including the Chamber Board of Directors, members, and staff; local elected and senior government officials; and friends, families, and colleagues of the honorees. The awards ceremony opened with a vocal performance by the Loreleis and pictures from the event, which will be available soon on flickr, were captured by local photographer Brandi Leigh

AT&T’s presenting sponsorship was in keeping with the company’s long-term commitment to supporting public safety. The company is currently working in partnership with the First Responder Network Authority to build FirstNet, the first nationwide public safety broadband platform.
“We admire and appreciate the extraordinary commitment to others exemplified by all first responders,” said Robert Doreauk, Regional Director of External Affairs, AT&T. "These men and women serve and protect their community and literally save lives – sometimes at the risk of their own.  It is indeed a privilege to be part of honoring these local heros.”

About the 2018 Community Heroes


Sergeant Chris Burnette, UNC Public Safety Officer of the Year

Sergeant Chris Burnette began his law enforcement career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991 and now serves as Sergeant overseeing the Quartermaster Division. He is a Field Training Officer (FTO), General Instructor, Firearms Instructor, Hazardous Materials Instructor, Chemical Munitions Instructor, Rapid Deployment Instructor, and Certified Armorer for all department firearms. Burnette is also responsible for all police equipment, including keys, badges, uniforms, cars, guns, and radios. He is a true “jack of all trades” who goes above and beyond what is expected on a regular basis to ensure that Officers are equipped and prepared to serve the University Community. Burnette does it all with an upbeat and professional attitude. For his unwavering commitment to the safety of students, staff, and faculty, we are proud to recognize Sergeant Chris Burnette as the 2018 UNC Police Officer of the Year.

Sergeant Ryan Daniels, Carrboro Police Officer of the Year

Sergeant Ryan Daniels began a career in law enforcement in 2002 with the Chesterfield County Police in Virginia. He started with the Carrboro Police Department in 2008 as a patrol officer and now serves as a sergeant in the Investigations Division. In addition to working as a highly skilled Investigator, Daniels fulfills the role of team leader for the department’s Critical Incident Unit. In this role, he coordinates and manages all aspects of the team, including training and equipment. Daniels is known within his department for his dedication, law enforcement knowledge and going beyond his regular duty assignments. For his commitment to safety, we are proud to recognize Sergeant Daniels as the 2018 Carrboro Police Officer of the Year.

Relief Driver David Riggs, Carrboro Firefighter of the Year

Relief Driver David Riggs was nominated by colleagues for his attention to detail and work ethic. He manages several projects and has been a huge asset to the department in his tenure. Riggs also mentors and coaches new employees, sharing his wealth of knowledge. He remains calm under pressure during high stress emergency incidents and always provides the best possible customer service to our residents. In the firefighter through driver ranks, he has the distinction of being the longest serving fire service member with 24 years of service dedicated to the Town of Carrboro. Riggs exemplifies the department’s core values of integrity, dedication, and excellence and motto, exceeding expectations, in all he does. Congratulations, Relief Driver David Riggs, on this recognition by your colleagues as Firefighter of the Year for 2018.

Lieutenant Anne Wandishin, South Orange Rescue Squad Employee of the Year

Lieutenant Anne Wandishin joined the Rescue Squad in April 2015 as a member of the Technical Rescue Team. She has been a quick study in her training and has consistently taken on extra responsibilities when needed. In 2017, she was elected to be the Operations Lieutenant for the Technical Rescue Team. She has devoted countless hours to ensuring that our equipment is organized and working properly. This past summer, when her Captain was preparing to become a first-time dad, she stepped up to ensure that there was never a gap in our response capability. She made sure that the team was prepared for the hurricanes and that the gear was staged and ready. During her short time on the team, she has deployed for two hurricanes and one missing person search, not to mention numerous local responses. Wandishin’s passion, skills, and enthusiasm have made her an integral part of the team. South Orange Rescue Squad is proud to recognize Lieutenant Anne Wandishin as the 2018 Member of the Year.

Officer German Barcenas, Chapel Hill Police Officer of the Year

Officer German Barcenas, who has been on the force for just under 4 years, excels in all aspects of policing, including traffic enforcement, DWI investigations, domestic violence response, partnering agency assistance, and new officer field training. He has quickly established himself as an integral part of the department and community. One of the few Spanish speakers in the agency, Barcenas is frequently relied upon to bridge the gap between law enforcement and members of the Latino community. He has participated in Orange County’s Faith ID drive and regularly assists with translating for the agency and other neighboring departments. During this year, he has responded to several critical incidents, requiring him to not only conduct criminal investigations but provide life-saving medical attention. Routinely a leader in the department for DWI enforcement and arrests, Barcenas has been praised for his thoroughness, preparedness and professionalism in court. Congratulations, German Barcenas, we are proud to recognize you as the 2018 Chapel Hill Police Officer of the Year.

Assistant Chief Jeff Cabe, Chapel Hill Firefighter of the Year

As Assistant Fire Chief for operations, Jeff Cabe is responsible for the oversight of departmental daily operations and emergency response. Chief Cabe, a department member since 1996, embodies the characteristics of a true servant leader and reflects the Chapel Hill Fire Department and Town values. He has developed training academies for the department’s young leaders and new drivers, mentoring and encouraging them to grow. He also established scenario-based training exercises for our personnel that have built stronger operational teams. Chief Cabe is a tireless leader, who performs arduous job tasks such as rolling hose and maintaining and cleaning equipment. He does so purely to support the department’s mission without any expectation of recognition. In addition to the leadership Jeff provides at the Chapel Hill Fire Department, he also has served his local community as Fire Chief for the Orange Rural/Hillsborough Fire Department for over 20 years. Congratulations, Assistant Chief Jeff Cabe, we are proud to recognize you as the Chapel Hill Firefighter of the Year for 2018.

Sergeant Katie Spear, Orange County Sheriff Employee of the Year

Sergeant Katie Spear began her career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in the Detention Center in 2009. She learned quickly and was promoted to Corporal. In December 2017, she was promoted again to Sergeant. Spear is very dedicated to her team at the Detention Center and a respected supervisor to her fellow employees. She is a very inspiring leader and an effective problem solver. Sergeant Spear is married and has two adult sons. Sergeant Katie Spear, we are proud to recognize you as the 2018 Orange county Sheriff Employee of the Year.

Captain Andrew (Andy) Werner, Orange County EMS Employee of the Year

Captain Andy Werner began as a paramedic with the agency more than five years ago after retiring from the New York City Fire Department as their Quality Assurance Officer. Werner was promoted into his current position more than two years ago and has lead with extraordinary passion. The dedication he shows to the community and his Emergency Services Department is unmatched in the field. Werner makes sure all staff is taken care of before his own needs are met; he will call or stop by the 911 center every shift to make sure all staff has food and drink. Werner is always quick to respond to any call where a unit needs extra assistance or manpower without ever being asked and exemplifies professionalism no matter the situation. Werner mentors and empowers the paramedics and EMTs on his shift, providing countless hours to improving the Orange County EMS System. For his exceptional service to the residents and visitors of Orange County, his EMS shift and our public safety partners, we are proud to recognize Captain Andy Werner as the 2018 Orange County EMS Officer of the Year.

*Surprise Award: Emergency Services Director, Dinah Jeffries, Emergency Services Officer of the Year

Director Dinah Jeffries began a career in the 911 Center in the 1980s, moving up to become the 911 training officer and then the Communications Operations Manager. She led the 911 Center to being the best in the State of North Carolina. Jeffries was named the national 911 Director of the year for APCO/NENA. Jeffries served on the North Carolina Active Assailant Task Force in 2016 and the North Carolina 911 board, providing exceptional leadership across the State of North Carolina. Jeffries has been active in Emergency Management, providing extensive input for the statewide credentialing process. She served as the Interim Emergency Services Director for eighteen months before being selected for the permanent leadership position. This past year, Jeffries lead a countywide Peer Support Team initiative to provide assistance and support for all public safety providers. For her commitment to our residents and visitors, her Emergency Services staff, and the public safety partners, we are proud to recognize Emergency Services Director, Dinah Jeffries, as the 2018 Emergency Services Officer of the Year.

Jackie Cole, Jim Gibson Volunteer of the Year

Jackie Cole is an incredible member of our community and supporter of less fortunate populations through her work with the N.C. Therapeutic Riding Center, the oldest therapeutic riding center in North Carolina. She has taught therapeutic horseback riding to children and adults with disabilities since 1988. Her enthusiasm and positive nature have inspired countless children to overcome significant challenges to learn to ride a horse.
Cole holds a bachelor's degree in Medical Technology from Duke University, and is a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor and mentor. Cole loves watching her students build confidence, develop a love for horses and horseback riding and most of all have fun. When the Riding Center needed strong leadership to get through a challenging time in their 39 year history, Cole pitched in to do whatever was needed to keep the organization running from cleaning bathrooms, teaching classes, hiring and training new staff to fundraising. And she did it all with a smile. She has more energy than most children and tackles any task, no matter how daunting, with boundless enthusiasm that never fails to motivate everyone around her. We are truly lucky to have Jackie Cole supporting our community. Congratulations, we are proud to recognize you as the 2018 Jim Gibson Volunteer of the year.

Linda Convissor, Town and Gown Award

Linda Convissor retired as director of Community Relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she served as a bridge to connect local businesses and elected officials with the University. She doesn't just do her job; she lives it. Convissor is a member of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and Friends of Downtown. She is regularly involved in the meetings and activities of numerous campus boards and work groups, including the Board of Trustees and the Board of Visitors. Convissor is also part of the senior leadership team in the Office of University Communications. Her roles include working with Orange County to coordinate an early voting site near campus and engaging with local nonprofits that tie in with University issues and initiatives, including the Northside Neighborhood Initiative. Convissor works closely with the University’s Student Affairs division to promote the Good Neighbor Initiative and sends countless emails to campus neighbors, local government officials, businesses and others about events and issues on campus that affect the community.
Convissor is a master connector between the people who run local businesses, govern our towns and the county, and operate the University. Whenever her name is mentioned, it is always done so with a smile. Convissor goes above and beyond her duties by investing the time to genuinely get to know all the people who make up the community. She makes an effort to include everyone; for example, she encouraged staff to attend the naturalization ceremony for one of the building custodians. It is her care, dedication and talent at connecting people that makes her a treasure to both the University and to the Town of Chapel Hill.

Dr. Keith Taylor, Lifetime Achievement Award

Over the years, Keith Taylor, DDS has donated countless hours to public service through the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, Angel Flight, the Fearrington Foundation, NC Missions of Mercy, Remote Area Medical, and AirLifeFlight. Dr. Taylor served for six years on the IFC Board of Directors, including one year as Vice President, two years as Board President, and then as Board Past President. As President of the IFC Board, Dr. Taylor contributed numerous hours to the planning of the new IFC at SECU Family House and served on the building and grounds committee. He also provided consulting for the new Community House's dental clinic, which is fully is equipped to serve residents. For several years, Dr. Taylor has donated his services to residents, who will now have an on-premise resource to meet their dental needs.
A private pilot, Dr. Taylor has combined his love flying with his dedication to community service. He has been active in AirLifeFlight, getting patients to and from the local hospitals. He both flew many missions and was the area coordinator for others. He was concerned that when the patients arrived at the airports, they usually would have to taxi to the hospital. Most did not have the money that required, so he recruited a driver for those patients. He is one of several dental practitioners who "fly-in" to disadvantaged areas and hold free weekend-long clinics through N.C. Missions of Mercy and Remote Area Medical non-profit organizations that provide free dental treatment to those in need. Dr. Taylor has provided about 150 clinics over the last 16 years, resulting in about $4 million worth of free treatment. In addition to dental work, he has given over 1,300 children a free airplane ride with the Young Eagles non-profit group that introduces children to flight.

Robert Dowling, Citizen of the Year

A former banker in New York and Chicago, Robert Dowling left the corporate world in 1994 to move to Carrboro. Since then, he has made an indelible impact on the local community through work with the Community Home Trust, Inter-Faith Council for Social Services, Grounded Solutions Network and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.
Dowling joined the board of Orange Community Housing Corporation in 1996, became executive director in December 1997, and managed the organization’s transition to a community land trust between 2000-2003. Thanks to his leadership, Community Home Trust is now recognized as a leader in the provision of permanently affordable housing that is integrated into market-rate neighborhoods. He represents Community Home Trust on the Orange County Affordable Housing Coalition and championed the recent $10 million bond referendum for affordable housing. He often confers with individuals and groups about the Inclusionary Housing and Community Land Trust model in Orange County.
Dowling serves on the board as treasurer of Grounded Solutions Network, a national organization focusing on community land trusts and inclusionary housing. He also serves as treasurer of the board for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of IFC’s FoodFirst capital campaign. Dowling loves to share laughs with those in his presence, but he shies from taking credit for the good work he has fostered. He is a servant leader, who has supported the staff of the Community Home Trust staff for the past 21 years. Dowling’s sense of teamwork, leadership, and his passion for affordable housing to make our community better make him an ideal recipient for citizen of the year.
About the Chamber: The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization that serves and advances the business interests of greater Chapel Hill, including Carrboro, southern Orange, northern Chatham, and southwest Durham counties. Members count on the Chamber to 1) connect them with key people, information, and resources; 2) advocate for local business interests; 3) promote our members, community, and quality of life; and 4) help members save money. The Chamber network is getting stronger with nearly 1,000 members who share a vision for a sustainable community where business thrives. Follow us on Twitter @CarolinaChamber.
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