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February 3, 2009 2:00 pm

Brandon Haught
Public Information Office

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. 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 Tuesday during a ceremony in Daytona Beach.

School resource deputies like Stella Ott have a unique opportunity to impact crime fighting and crime prevention because of their interactions in one location with all the children who live in the nearby communities. Ott, who is assigned to Seabreeze High School and Ormond Beach Middle School, showed just how valuable her role is when her knowledge and experience led to the capture of several suspects in off-campus crimes, earning her the deputy of the year honor. The Daytona Beach Police Department praised Ott in October for her assistance in indentifying juveniles believed to have committed burglaries, arsons and robberies within their jurisdiction. She also worked closely with the Holly Hill Police Department helping their investigators identify robbery suspects who were former students at Ott’s high school. Ott, who lives in Port Orange, devoted substantial time and effort beyond her normal duties to help these other agencies. Yet another example Ott’s commitment is when she intercepted a series of text message threats from a student who claimed that he intended to bring a gun to the school. Her skilled handling of the incident resulted in the arrest of the suspect and a safe resolution.

"It takes a lot to be deputy of the year," said Sheriff Johnson during the award presentation. "I’m very proud of the job that you do."

Many jobs in the Sheriff’s Office require an exceptionally disciplined approach in order to do a professional job while also keeping the negatives of the assignment from affecting the personal side of life. Investigator Lauralynn Mays, from Port Orange, is a sex crimes investigator who has to deal with sexual predators and offenders regularly on the Internet. Working out of the Sheriff’s Office Operations Center in Daytona Beach, her job entails a virtual patrol of a variety of online sexual genres, some which may be considered distasteful. Mays has tackled this assignment, which is relatively new in the Sheriff’s Office, with dedication and professionalism, leading to positive law enforcement results. Her successful approach to this challenging job earned Mays the investigator of the year nod.

"What a great job!" said Sheriff Johnson. "Thank you for all that you do."

Employee of the year Loretta Voss is the Chief Deputy’s Administrative Assistant at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in DeLand, and she is a treasured resource for deputies throughout the Sheriff’s Office, too. She coordinates all outside detail assignments, requiring a high degree of organizational skills and the ability to work under pressure. The DeLand resident is always pleasant to work with, notes Sgt. Paul Adkins, who nominated her for the award, even when the work requires some last minute schedule adjustments when a deputy is unable to cover an assigned detail.

"You work hard and take the job to heart," said Sheriff Johnson. "It’s a pleasure to be able to present this to you."

Gina Evans, who works at the Sheriff’s Office communications center in Daytona Beach, earned telecommunicator of the year honors for her exceptional handling of two extremely critical and stressful calls. A June incident involved an Amber Alert about a man who was considered armed and dangerous and had threatened to kill his two children who were with him. Evans handled a flood of information and kept 25 units updated as the call unfolded over nearly half an hour. Evans remained calm and in control during the complicated event. A week later Evans had to once again assimilate massive amounts of information when a man committed a string of armed carjackings. The DeLand resident had to help coordinate five agencies, patch radio channels and make sure all units on scene were safe.

"It’s a tough job, and the tougher it gets the better you get," said Sheriff Johnson. "Congratulations!"

Establishing and maintaining a connection with the communities the Sheriff’s Office serves is vital to a working relationship that keeps everyone safe and informed. Citizen Observer Program volunteer Phillip Segalla has become a valuable link in that connection in the New Smyrna Beach area, earning him the volunteer of the year honors. In addition to his normal COP duties, Segalla spearheaded the local "Vial of Life" program, and is always eager to give presentations and answer questions. He willingly rearranges his personal schedule to make sure he is available for any Neighborhood Watch or community safety presentations that come up. Segalla’s ability to speak to the various audiences using gentle humor and relevant stories leaves a professional impression with citizens.

"We couldn’t do it without our volunteers," said Sheriff Johnson. "We appreciate it."

Also honored at the Tuesday award ceremony were the Sheriff’s Office’s Employees of the 4th Quarter, 2008. Receiving awards were deputy Stella Ott; Volusia Bureau of Investigation investigator Ben Yisrael, who lives in Daytona Beach; training division office assistant Vicki Held, who lives in DeLand; telecommunicator Jackie Esposito, who lives in Ormond Beach; and volunteer Barbara Minardi.

Volusia County Sheriff's Office

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

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