Public Information Officer
Each year four Volusia County Sheriff’s Office employees and one volunteer are carefully chosen out of an outstanding pool of well over 1,000 people for their exceptional work performance. The five demonstrated superior work ethic and achievement, not only during the past year, but also throughout their careers serving the county’s citizens. Sheriff Ben Johnson honored these top-performing Employees of the Year 2009 during a ceremony in Daytona Beach, Tuesday.
Criminals in the Pierson area don’t stand a chance when deputy of the year Todd Smith is on duty. Not only is his supervisor impressed with the deputy’s crime solving tenacity, but so are the local residents. Smith eagerly takes the initiative in all cases no matter how big or small, and he’s earned the residents’ respect and gratitude as a result. This patrol deputy worked alongside investigators to help solve 11 cases in short order primarily due to old fashioned footwork and a tireless devotion to the job. Approximately once a month an area in Pierson was hit with a rash of vandalisms. Smith tracked down the suspects and obtained confessions, clearing several cases. In a separate instance, Smith investigated a residential burglary and had the suspects identified, charged and the victim’s property returned in under four hours. The community knows that Smith will always do his best to solve whatever problem that comes up.
The burglary victim wrote a thank you letter to Sheriff Johnson, saying: “I don’t know where you found Deputy Smith, but please go back and get 20 more just like him. He is the perfect example of professionalism.”
There is never any guarantee that a routine investigation is what it seems. Investigator Richard Fortin discovered that when a missing juvenile case turned into a sexual battery investigation. The juvenile had been gone for about two months and during this time investigator Fortin spoke almost daily with the suspect, developing a rapport and gathering potentially incriminating statements concerning the sex crimes. Fortin’s determination finally resulted in a high-profile arrest with a lot of media interest and led to several other victims being identified. Additionally, Fortin solved a strongarm robbery case at an Ormond Beach motel, and closed out more than 20 car breaks and two residential burglaries through a long series of interviews and determined investigative work. The investigator of the year is assigned to the District 3 office headquartered in Holly Hill and is also a Crime Scene Investigator.
“The work you do all year round and your dedication is very much appreciated,” said Sheriff Johnson.
The investigators at the Sheriff’s Office’s Crime Scene and Major Case units feel they owe employee of the year Andy Conklin a deep debt of gratitude. Tight budget constraints have made securing funding for a new crime scene vehicle an uphill battle. Conklin took on the challenge, relying on creativity and doggedness from start to finish. He donated a great deal of his personal time and money to make sure the project finally came through. It required carefully researching and bringing together the needed equipment piece by piece until the whole package was ready for final budget approval. After the vehicle was delivered to the Sheriff’s Office, Conklin spent an entire weekend of his own time completing all the necessary final electrical installation and testing. Through Conklin’s hard work and dedication, crime scene investigators now have a valuable tool to rely on when working in the field.
“This is just one of the many things that he has done,” said Sheriff Johnson. “Thanks for everything you do.”
Telecommunicator of the year Randell Zentz is well known for being there for the Sheriff’s Office in times of need. He never complains when he’s called out after hours, saying “I do whatever needs to be done.” Zentz is an assistant to the communications coordinator, but when the occasion calls for it, he enthusiastically rises to any challenge and takes charge with ease. Zentz recently took on the massive task of deploying the Sheriff’s Office’s mobile command post on his own during a significant training exercise. His professionalism and coordination skills earned him the praise of all the command staff personnel present. Additionally, Zentz has been instrumental in the deployment of a new portable radio in conjunction with neighboring Lake County. This interoperability endeavor is a pioneer project that will likely be emulated throughout the state to improve communication between counties.
“We really appreciate your dedication,” said Sheriff Johnson.
Volunteer of the year Andy Gygi gives his time to the investigative unit at the district office headquartered in New Smyrna Beach. He is considered an invaluable contributor as he assists with mapping burglary trends and reviewing reports. He also helps check pawn shop databases to look for possible stolen property, and follows up with victims of property crimes by phone to see if any new details or investigative leads have developed. Gygi also serves in the Citizen Observer Program and his sharp eyes led to the discovery of a break-in at a local cell phone tower site.
Sheriff Johnson also awarded employee of the 4th quarter honors during Tuesday’s ceremony. Deputy of the quarter Marty Hurst was praised for his willingness to go above and beyond for the citizens he encounters, such as helping a teenage battery victim feel much safer after Hurst refused to give up in getting her assailant, who fled to another county, to turn himself in. Investigator of the quarter Thomas Tatum was recognized for his superior skills in building a case against two defendants who were found guilty for first-degree premeditated murder. Due to the organization, interviews conducted, evidence collected and documentation presented, Tatum was able to provide the state with an abundance of evidence and information resulting in this verdict without a confession from either defendant. Volunteer of the quarter Al Roby has been an invaluable asset to the civil division in DeLand, helping serve court papers and thus lessening the workload of his fellow hardworking deputies and process servers. Roby also patrols with the Citizen Observer Program and trains others on proper use of vehicles, radios and other equipment. Employee of the year Conklin was also employee of the quarter, and telecommunicator of the year Zentz was also telecommunicator of the quarter.
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151