Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Member Services

Award Honorees

Congratulations to the 2017 public safety award nominees! For full nominee information, click each name below.

Firefighter Mark Blesener
Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services

Director Destiny Davidson
Cobb County 911

Master Patrol Officer Louis Defense
Smyrna Police Department

Lieutenant Curtis Endicott
Acworth Police Department

Emergency Communications Officer
   Richard Esquivel

Cobb County 911

Lieutenant Jason Evangelista
Smyrna Fire Department

EMT-P Chris Gudaitis
Puckett EMS

Officer Katie Lovelady
Cobb County Police Department

Corporal Dakarai Mason
KSU Department of Public Safety & Police

Firefighter Evan McBrayer
Smyrna Fire Department

Emergency Communications Officer
   Emily Mistretta

Cobb County 911

Officer Greg Sbaldigi
Kennesaw Police Department

Director Tanya Smith
KSU Department of Public Safety & Police

Lieutenant Herman Trautwein
Marietta Fire Department

Paramedic Bill Walthour
MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service

 

Public Safety Units

Captain Josh Taylor and Detective
   Steve Hammond

Cobb County Fire & Emergency Services,
   Cobb County Police Department

Fugitive Unit
Cobb County Sheriff’s Office

Lieutenant Amie Garrett, Sergeant
   Beth Hunter, Sergeant Yaminah Holt,
   and Deputy Mark Hampton

Cobb County Sheriff’s Office

Morning Watch Officers
Marietta Police Department

Officer Edwin Ainsworth and Officer
   Terry Parks

Cobb County School District Police Department

R.A.D. Instructors
Marietta Police Department

Unit 322
Puckett EMS

 


Firefighter Mark Blesener

Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services

For the past 10 years of his life, firefighter Mark Blesener has committed himself to serving the Cobb community and keeping it safe. All 10 of those years have been served with the Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services. Blesener is known for his professionalism and fearlessness.

On September 18, 2016 Blesener responded to an emergency response call of a hypothermic woman on the Chattooga River in Rabun County. When Blesener, along with others from the unit, arrived at the scene by helicopter, he was lowered to the rock where the affected woman was, assisted her into the rescue basket and quickly wrapped her in warm layers. Once safely in the helicopter, the woman was given medical attention.

Blesener is commended for his bravery and bold response to this dangerous and daring rescue. Because of his quick thinking and fearlessness, that woman’s life was saved that day and she has made a full recovery.

Blesener


Director Destiny Davidson

Cobb County 911

Director Destiny Davidson, newly appointed Emergency Communications Director of Cobb County 911, has distinguished herself professionally over the past 26 years of public service. Over the years, Davidson has worked hard to accomplish new challenges, obtain greater positions and get respectable promotions within the Cobb County Department of Public Safety.

Already in her short time at Cobb County 911, Davidson has accomplished many goals that positively influence employees and the community alike. From installing quiet rooms in the 911 center, implementing a dispatch function at SunTrust Park, obtaining part-time opportunities for 911 employees and working to increase pay for all pay classes within the department, Davidson strives to bring good change and influence to coworkers and the community surrounding.

Davidson is commended for her hard work ethic and multi-tasking ability by completing and obtaining a master’s degree, keeping up a rigorous schedule and mothering five children in the process.

Davidson


Master Patrol Officer Louis Defense

Smyrna Police Department

MPO Louis Defense has not only served for 16 years at the Smyrna Police Department, he has also served as marine. Defense is college educated, energetic, a positive influence and holds many leadership accomplishments according to his constituents.

In 2015, Defense was assigned to community outreach as a veteran officer as a result of his great talent as an effective communicator. In addition, due to his ability to effectively instruct and lead, Defense assumed leadership over the Citizen’s Police Academy and has successfully taught and graduated three classes. Defense founded and authored the “Call Before You Go” program in 2015, which encourages businesses and individuals to allow officers to escort them to financial institutions when making hefty deposits.

Along with the numerous projects, programs and efforts MPO Defense has been involved with, he is known for the energetic and intelligent perspective he brings to his position. His “can do” attitude provides his peers and the community surrounding with vision, morale and overall positive thinking.

Defense


Lieutenant Curtis Endicott

Acworth Police Department

Acworth Police Department Lieutenant Curtis Endicott has devoted over three decades of his life to public safety and service. The past two decades have been served with the Acworth Police Department.

“He sets an example by serving selflessly,” writes his supervisor Captain Stan Melton. Endicott is a natural leader, honest listener and solid example for his peers and the community in which he serves. Having served this community for over 20 years, Endicott is committed to not only improving it, but also keeping it safe.

Now, Endicott has initiated many new and innovating ideas to improve public safety within the community such as the Quality of Life Unit. Having seen the need to enhance the delivery of public safety services to parks, Endicott developed a new division of the department dedicated to improving the quality of life in the city by patrol units.

Endicott


Emergency Communications Officer Richard Esquivel

Cobb County 911

Though Emergency Communications Officer Richard Esquivel has only been a public servant for five years, he has a willing heart and devotion to serve the citizens of Cobb County and ensure their well-being.

On July 5, 2016, Esquivel responded to a woman who believed her brother may have overdosed on drugs. Once he arrived at the scene and determined that the brother was not breathing, he carefully instructed CPR until extra help arrived. Esquivel’s calm and collected nature helped this chaotic scene hold some peace. He was able to keep the brother alive until medical personnel arrived at the scene.

Once the brother was treated, he regained consciousness and was expected to make a full recovery. If it were not for the quick thinking, ability and composed demeanor of Esquivel, the results of the incident would look very different.

Esquivel


Lieutenant Jason T. Evangelista

Smyrna Fire Department

Lieutenant Jason T. Evangelista has devoted 14 years of his life to public service at the Smyrna Fire Department. With a positive outlook and perspective, Evangelista consistently focuses on helping others achieve both personal and professional goals.

As lead instructor at the Metro Atlanta Firefighters Conference, Evangelista utilizes his experience in the training division to educate others in the public and fire service community. On his own time, he selflessly devotes himself to training other firefighters in basic and advanced firefighting techniques.

“Jason truly represents our core values established through our mission statement: accountability, commitment, community, integrity and service,” says supervisor Stephen Westbrook. Evangelista uses his experience as a catalyst for greatness and shares that knowledge with others, which makes him such a wonderful public servant.

Evangelista


EMT-P Chris Gudaitis

Puckett EMS

Selfless, timely and “good natured” would be words to describe EMT-P Chris Gudaitis. Gudaitis devotes himself to each need that he faces and is a skilled, talented paramedic. Many elude to how he is “true to his nature,” which at his core is humility.

On April 22, 2017, as Gudaitis was traveling northbound on a highway with his friends, he came upon an unconscious man laying partially in his lane. It was later discovered that Cumming Police had received a medical call regarding the man. Without hesitation, Gudaitis exited his vehicle, obtained the injured man and removed him from the roadway and began to evaluate the patient’s condition. These events occurred before any law enforcement or fire rescue had arrived.

Although the man did not survive the incident and passed two days later in the hospital, Gudaitis’s selfless nature and genuine care for others prolonged the victim’s life. If it were not for his clinical expertise and quick decision making, the victim would never have made it to the hospital.

Gudaitis


Officer Katie Lovelady

Cobb County Police

Officer Katie Lovelady has been in law enforcement for the past four years, almost the past two of those years have been spent with Cobb County Police. Lovelady has committed herself to public service and safety over the past four years and is responsible for saving two lives within the past two years.

One incident occurred on October 18, 2016, when she responded to a call where a shooting had taken place. Quickly and efficiently, Lovelady arrived at the scene within three minutes of being dispatched and found a male who had been shot through the back with the bullet having excited the neck. Where the wound from the bullet was located, made it difficult for the victim to breathe. Being observant and a quick thinker, Lovelady was able to immediately identify the victim’s medical needs and apply her chest seal to his back within one minute of arrival.

Although the bullet did not strike major organs, it did leave the victim with a collapsed lung, which has been treated and cared for at a hospital. If it were not for the Lovelady thinking quick on her feet, the man would have died at the scene.

Lovelady


Corporal Dakarai Mason

Kennesaw State University Department of Public Safety and Police

“Corporal Mason leads by example with his dedication to serving by serving high risk youth within the community,” says supervisor Sgt. Meredith Lane. For the past eight years, Mason has committed his life and service to Kennesaw State University students and faculty. In addition, Mason is passionate about working with disadvantaged and high risk youth in the community.

Due to this passion, Mason teamed up with an education professor at KSU to create a program called ROUTE 1, designed to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the African American community. Along with the program, he provided specific training for other police officers to help them work with high risk youth and to educate young African Americans on how to interact with the police safely.

Mason actively participates with Year Up Greater Atlanta to connect high risk youth with employment opportunities through training and education. In this program, Mason engaged these students to answer tough questions and concerns about the violence between the police and community. Mason continues to be a positive educator of these very real societal challenges and with his dedication, the community and its relationships will continue to grow.

Mason


Firefighter Evan McBrayer

City of Smyrna Fire Department

Firefighter John Evan McBrayer has been described as extremely devoted to his craft and as a living example of Smyrna Fire Rescue’s motto: A Tradition of Excellence. Known for his positive outlook, McBrayer serves as an excellent instructor for his fellow firefighters and citizens, through the Citizen Fire Academy and the Citizen Emergency Response Team.

Firefighter McBrayer played an instrumental role in establishing a shift-based EMT training course for uncertified employees. This course provides training to employees while on duty, eliminating increased overtime costs. He has also seized opportunities to provide first responder and EMT and Paramedic courses to fellow members of his shift.

It’s clear that Firefighter McBrayer has a passion for educating his colleagues and the community on fire safety and CPR/First Aid. He has been deeply involved in the Citizen Fire Academy, devoting many volunteer hours for the program. He often conducts fire safety demonstrations and he works as an EMT instructor at a local technical college, educating future first responders.

McBrayer


Emergency Communications Officer Emily Mistretta

Cobb County 911

For the past five years, Officer Emily Mistretta has devoted her life to public service, specifically at the Cobb County 911. Like any devoted public servant, Mistretta is dedicated to serving the citizens of Cobb County and keeping them safe.

On May 30, 2016, Mistretta received a call from a distraught man whose wife had lost consciousness. Mistretta walked the frantic man through the process, asking routine questions about the past health of his wife. During the call, Mistretta’s calm nature and reassuring words helped assure the man that the best way to help his wife in that moment was to listen carefully to her instructions. Within 75 seconds of answering the call, Mistretta determined that the patient was unresponsive and not breathing. Without hesitation, she began to give the man CPR instructions for his wife. She stayed on the line and instructed the man until responders arrived at the house.

A week later, the man called and thanked Mistretta for saving his wife’s life. If it were not for her calm nature, quick and precise instruction and overall concern for the wellbeing of others, the situation would have turned out significantly different.

Mistretta


Officer Gregory Sbaldigi

Kennesaw Police Department

Officer Gregory Sbaldigi is an eight-year veteran of law enforcement, serving two years with the Kennesaw Police Department. In his time with the Kennesaw Police Department, Officer Sbaldigi has exhibited a passion for public safety with a focus on crime reduction. Recognizing a need of community outreach within public safety, Officer Sbaldigi took time away from patrol to invest time with local youth. Unbeknownst to him, he was filmed playing football with young children in a neighborhood known for higher crime and call volume during a time when tensions were high between the public and police officers. The video was shared on social media as an example of community policing and drew a positive response from the media and the community at large.

It’s exceptional for police officers to respond to a call and to perform CPR in a career—routinely, medical response is already on the scene. It’s even rarer for an officer to have a successful resuscitation. In January and March of this year, Officer Sbaldigi administered CPR to two unresponsive individuals and he was able to resuscitate both individuals.

In addition to these life saving measures, Officer Sbaldigi responded as a backup officer to a report of suspects breaking into cars in a subdivision. He was able to locate and arrest the suspect and recovers drugs and stolen property. Through further investigation, it was determined that Officer Sbaldigi’s efforts aided in other auto break-in theft cases.

Through his dedication, Officer Sbaldigi is providing the highest quality of service to his community.

Sbaldigi


Director Tanya Smith

Kennesaw State University Department of Public Safety and Police

For the past three years, Officer Tanya Smith has served at the Kennesaw State University Department of Public Safety, however; Smith has devoted over 23 years to public service and safety.

When Smith was a lieutenant at the Holly Springs Police Department, she was a champion for legislation that allowed for expanding access to carry naloxone, a synthetic drug used in an opiate overdose, by law enforcement officers. Smith was instrumental in the process and Holly Springs Police Department was the first agency to ever implement the program.

Once at the KSU Department of Public Safety and Police, using her knowledge and experience, Smith quickly worked to implement the same program. Since its implementation, KSU police have been able to save four lives with reversals.

Over the past three years, Smith has traveled across the state and assisted several agencies in establishing their programs, presented at conferences and command school classes and all the while encouraging local law enforcement leaders to utilize this great tool.

Smith


Lieutenant Herman Trautwein

Marietta Fire Department

Lieutenant Trautwein has over 26 of experience with the Marietta Fire Department as a fire officer and paramedic. In addition, Trautwein served as a sergeant in the Air Force Reserve for over 20 years. In his years of service, he has devoted himself to the community and its safety.

On June 25, 2016, Trautwein was on vacation at Daytona Beach when a massive storm came over the beach. On the way back to his room, he saw two people who had been struck by lightning while they were wading in shallow water. Disregarding his own safety, Trautwein sprinted toward the beach to the injured patients. Both male and female were injured by the strike, were not breathing and were unresponsive. Without hesitation, he, along with other bystanders, extricated the victims from the water. Trautwein began CPR on the victims and was able to rejuvenate the man. However, the female passed just after making it to the hospital for treatment.

Blesener


Paramedic William Walthour

MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service

Paramedic Bill Walthour has devoted his career to public safety. He is a true veteran in the field, with 30 years of service total, 15 years with MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service. Over his 30-year career, he has responded to countless calls, each time providing excellent patient care. Paramedic Walthour has earned a reputation as someone who continuously goes above and beyond the call of duty when lives are on the line. He has shown a keen ability to manage difficult situations, such as responding to someone experiencing cardiac arrest at a funeral, and to create positive outcomes for his patients.

Paramedic Walthour has a profound knowledge of emergency response and he has shown a strong desire to pass along his knowledge by mentoring and educating new paramedics.

Walthour


 

Public Safety Units

Captain Joshua Taylor and Detective Stephen Hammond

Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services and Cobb County Police Department

 

 

With 23 years of experience and public service, Captain Joshua Taylor has spent 17 of those years serving at the Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services.

In 2012, Taylor and friend, Detective Stephen Hammond of the Cobb County Police Department, saw a need to increase care and timely intervention for wounded individuals in the area and created the Cobb County Police Department’s Tactical First Aid Program. The Tactical First Aid Program provided the department with the training and equipment needed to treat extremity wounds, penetrating chest trauma and airway obstructions. In 2013, Taylor began conducting training sessions to prepare the department for usage. Today, the program is fully operational and all Cobb County Police Officers receive this lifesaving training, are receiving CPR and basic medical training and are using these radical practices to save lives daily.

Since the program’s inception, there has been a 74 percent survival rate when officers utilize the training and equipment provided by Taylor and Hammond. Today, 23 citizens are alive because of the foresight, dedication and teamwork of Taylor and Hammond to develop such a lifesaving, essential program.

 


Fugitive Unit

Cobb County Sheriff's Office

Walthour

 

 

The Fugitive Unit is a vital part of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office that is staffed by plain clothed investigators whose primary job is to apprehend known fugitives who attempt to evade law enforcement and hide in and around Cobb County. Additionally, these investigators work closely with other law enforcement agencies throughout the country to locate and apprehend fugitives wanted on Cobb County charges with often very little information, such as a name or an alias, and sometimes with just a description of the wanted suspect.

These investigators are able to develop leads, monitor technology and conduct surveillance operations that lead to quickly remove dangerous criminals off the street. Their actions prevent flee murder suspects, rapist and robbers from continuing to terrorize our community. They hunt down and apprehend the worst of the worst when others have given up hope of ever seeing justice again.

The Fugitive Unit has an outstanding record—from April 2016 to March 31, 2017 the unit took on 875 new cases and cleared 743 cases by arrest.

 


Lt. Amie Garrett, Sgt. Beth Hunter, Sgt. Yaminah Holt, Dep. Mark Hampton

Cobb County Sheriff's Office

 

 

Lt. Amie Garrett, Sgt. Beth Hunter, Sgt. Yaminah Holt, Dep. Mark Hampton are assigned to the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office Detention Division and each have a strong passion for the Georgia Special Olympics. Each public safety officer has expressed their passion for the organization in different ways, but each has performed as key volunteers fundraising and supporting events to further the mission of the Georgia Special Olympics. These four dedicated individuals collectively raised $13,000 in 2016 and this year, the group has exceeded that amount, raising an estimated $20,000. The money that these individuals raise is presented to the Georgia Special Olympics in the name of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office and will allow close to 200 athletes to participate in the Georgia Special Olympics. All of the events hosted by these individuals is the Georgia Special Olympics’ largest grassroots efforts to fundraise for the organization.

 


Morning Watch Officers

Marietta Police Department

DavisWalthour

 

 

On Aug. 14, 2016, Morning Watch Patrol Officers Scott Davis, Michael Malcolm, and Kenyon Jackson responded to a theft from auto call. The call involved multiple suspects and the officers were aware of similar crimes in surrounding jurisdictions involving armed suspects.

At the scene of the crime, the officers devised a strategy to apprehend the suspects. When the officers approached the suspects and issued verbal commands, the suspects opened fire. Officer Scott Davis sustained gunshot wounds in his right hand and his right leg and fell down to the ground. Officers Michael Malcolm and Kenyon Jackson responded with return fire.

Officer Davis was unable to stand, but he remained calm and realized that his firearm had malfunctioned. He worked to clear the malfunction and stayed focused on the suspects. He was able to communicate the description of the vehicle that fled from the scene with additional suspects.

As additional units arrived to the scene, two suspects were taken into custody. The suspect who fired on Officer Davis was wounded and the other suspect hid in a vehicle until removed by officers.

Officers Davis, Malcolm and Jackson displayed all the qualities of highly trained officers—protecting each other and the residents of the City of Marietta.

 


Officer Edwin Ainsworth and Officer Terry Parks

Cobb County School District Police Department

AinsworthParks

 

 

On October 25, 2016 Officers Edwin Ainsworth and Terry Parks of the Cobb County School District were contacted by Tracy Guillory, Assistant Principal of South Cobb High School. Guillory had spotted an individual who was not an enrolled student loitering in the school’s promenade area.

The officers approached the subject and initiated an investigation. The suspect claimed that he was registered at the school but the Records Office had made an error with his schedule. Ainsworth and Parks escorted the subject to an office in the school’s freshman building. The officers contacted the Records Office and immediately found holes in the subject’s story. When it was clear that the individual’s story was false, he began to escalate the situation by shouting profanities and accusations of racism, becoming extremely agitated. As the subject began to reach for his book bag, Officer Parks asked the subject to stand. Officer Ainsworth picked up the book bag to remove it and felt a metal object inside the bag. In the back pocket of the bag, Officer Ainsworth found a loaded Cobra .380 automatic handgun and four loose bullets. At that time, the subject was handcuffed and read the Miranda Rights. After further investigation, the officers learned that the subject was on campus looking for students who were in a fight against his friends.

Thanks to the officers’ swift action, students and educators at South Cobb High School remained in a safe environment to learn and teach.

 


R.A.D. Instructors 

Marietta Police Department

 

 

Sergeant Jeremy Slatton, Sergeant Amy Valente, Detective Mark Erion, Detective Gretchen Ingram, and Officer Paul Hill have empowered over 100 women and several hundred children through the radWomen and radKids self-defense programs. The mission of RAD is to provide skills and training to recognize, avoid, resist, and escape violence, as well as other forms of victimization. The ultimate purpose of the program is to challenge society to evolve into an existence where violence is not an acceptable part of daily life. These programs were implemented because the instructors are driven to prevent the victimization of women and children, and they want to be a part of the solution.

The participants complete the course by defending themselves against an “attack” utilizing the skills they have learned throughout the course.

In 2016, five classes for women and children were hosted. The women’s course is so popular that it has a waiting list. Starting this fall, the radKids program will be included in the Physical Education curriculum at the elementary schools within the Marietta City Schools system, reaching hundreds of children each year.

Sergeant Jeremy Slatton, Sergeant Amy Valente, Detective Mark Erion, Detective Gretchen Ingram, and Officer Paul Hill volunteer their time to teach these courses, dedicating their lives to make a difference in the lives of the participants and creating a positive impact on their community.

 


EMT-P Travis McGhee and AEMT John Rigdon, Unit 322

Puckett EMS

Walthour

 

 

When it comes to the fleet of trucks at Puckett EMS, Unit 322 is a tough truck to work on in Cobb County. EMT-P Travis McGhee and AEMT John Rigdon consistently run a high volume of calls, often more than other trucks in the fleet. Both McGhee and Ridgon have made quick decisions when life mattered. This unit is often applauded by patients, family members, hospitals and other public safety personnel for their quick actions and their devotion to the patient during patient care.

Last year, Unit 322 was dispatched to a residence with a male experiencing difficulty breathing. Once on the scene, the male patient was unconscious and barely breathing. The crew worked quickly with a sense of command over the situation and divided tasks to save time and to save the man’s life. One began CPR while the other began to hook the patient up to the defibrillator and start an ET Tube to open his airway.

The crew continued CPR and shocking the patient as they moved him onto a stretcher for transport. During transport, the crew reassessed the patient and saw that his heart rate and blood pressure were decreasing, an indication that he may not survive. The crew made the decision to use a medicine to induce activity from the heart muscle. The medicine had no effect on the patient. With the last few seconds of life ticking away, the crew administered another drug as a last resort to get a response. The procedure sparked the heart to respond and the crew continued CPR until arriving at the hospital and the patient began breathing on his own. Several days later, the patient was released from the hospital with limited damage.