Elks Lodge recognizes Summit County first responders for dedication (w/video) | ParkRecord.com

Elks Lodge recognizes Summit County first responders for dedication (w/video)

When Park City Fire District Battalion Chief Steve Zwirn was approached about recognizing Wes Staples as firefighter of the year, he joked that he wasn't immediately sold on the recommendation.

"I was like, OK'," he said. "But, after a day or two, I was thinking, 'You know what, he is absolutely right.' Wes is a fantastic choice and after talking with the other battalion chiefs it was unanimous."

Zwirn helped honor Staples on Saturday during the Park City Elks Lodge's event that recognizes Summit County's first responders. Each year, five agencies — Summit County Sheriff's Office, Park City Police Department, Park City Fire District, Utah Highway Patrol and Summit County Emergency Medical Services — nominate an employee who embodies emergency service. The five recipients this year each received a plaque and dinner for two at The St. Regis Deer Valley.

The event drew a crowd of more than 50 uniformed emergency personnel and their families for the annual barbecue picnic.

"This guy is there for us all of the time," Zwirn said of Staples. "If you have a problem, he fixes it. He is a wonderful human being and one of the reasons I love coming to work every day."

The other first responders who were recognized are:

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  • Clint Parker, Park City police officer of the year
  • Lt. Nick Wilkinson, Summit County sheriff's deputy of the year
  • Cpl. Joshua T. Anderson, Utah Highway Patrol trooper of the year
  • John Adkins, Summit County Emergency Medical Services' EMT of the year

The Elks Lodge began honoring first responders in early 2000, according to Craig Cooper, member of the organization's board of trustees and former exalted ruler. He said the program is optional for local chapters.

"We started in about 2000 and had a very successful first run at it with a good turnout," he said. "The first year we did it, it gave me a whole new outlook on police officers. I can just imagine what they do, and it is a whole lot more than giving tickets. They have a very tough job."

Ross Kirkley, exalted ruler of the lodge, said first responders rarely get the recognition they deserve. He added, "They exemplify what is best among all of us."

"These men and women of our own community too often put their own lives in harm's way to make our lives safer and more secure," he said. "It's important, as a community, that we recognize these individuals and thank them for their selfless dedication. It's also important that we give thanks to their families, who I am sure have spent present many worried nights about the safety and security of those most dear to them."

Sgt. Steve Matthews, of the Utah Highway Patrol, presented the trooper of the year award to Anderson. Matthews won the same award in 2016. He said Anderson was recently promoted from trooper to corporal because of his professionalism and dedication to the job.

"He has dealt with many high-profile cases," Matthews said. "He has completed those investigations really well, and that has resulted in the successful prosecutions of people we don't want to be on our streets anymore."

Most of the recipients modestly accepted the recognition. Anderson said he was "appreciative" of the nomination. He pointed out other troopers who he felt were more deserving.

"We have a lot of good troopers and a lot of good guys," he said.

Anderson has been with the Utah Highway Patrol for 10 years, with his time spent mostly in Summit County.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Frank Smith said Wilkinson is the first person from the Sheriff's Office command staff to receive the deputy of the year honor. He said the award is typically given to someone from patrol.

"But, because of what Nick has done when we merged with Park City, Sheriff Martinez felt he had to go out of the norm," he said. "He has done a phenomenal job. He is a dear friend and probably the most competent police officer I know. This is well deserved and it is much appreciated for everything you have done."