(TDSHS press release) The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hosted the annual First Responder Awards ceremony today. The event held in Conservation Hall at the Tennessee Residence honors those who have dedicated their lives for the safety and security of Tennesseans. Governor Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee, Commissioner Jeff Long and State Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) joined honorees, their family members, and agency representatives to recognize first responders as well as the recipients of the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award.” Honorees are nominated by his or her peers and represent the 11 homeland security districts, law enforcement agencies, and emergency responders throughout Tennessee, as well as state agencies.
“This annual event is very important to us,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long said. “We remain indebted to the men and women first responders who work every day to keep the people of Tennessee safe. Our hearts go out to the families who have had loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. We are proud to honor them with these awards. Important events take place at the Governor’s Residence, and we appreciate Governor Lee allowing our department to continue to host this special ceremony.”
This year, 24 first responders were recognized with First Responder Awards and five individuals were honored with the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award.” “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” honorees are those who gave their lives in the line of duty. “These courageous individuals gave their lives to keep their communities safe,” Long said.
The First Responder Awards ceremony has been a long standing tradition in memory of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. State Senator Becky Massey spearheaded legislation to recognize law enforcement, firefighters and medical first responders who were either killed or suffered a career ending injury in the line of duty. The law (TCA 4-1-501) to allow for the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” passed during the 2014 legislative session. Governor & First Lady Lee, Sen. Massey along with Commissioner Long made the presentations to “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” honorees and the first responder award recipients.
First Responder Recipients
Homeland Security District 2
Investigator Wendy Zolkowski, Oak Ridge Police Department
Approximately 18 months ago, Investigator Wendy Zolkowski took on the role of handling matters pertaining to the aging and at-risk adult populations of Oak Ridge, TN. In that role, she has made it her mission to focus her efforts on enhancing the services the agency provides to their most vulnerable citizens. She has investigated countless matters ranging from the seeming minor to very major cases such as fraud, abuse, and even death. Not only has Inv. Zolkowski worked to bring Oak Ridge Police Department into compliance with state regulations, she has also worked to bring new programs to Anderson County. Through her efforts, the City of Oak Ridge proclaimed June 15th as Elder Awareness Day. Considering the programs she has initiated or enhanced; the contributions she has made to the community and civic activities; and her involvement in local, state, and national law enforcement issues, Investigator Wendy Zolkowski has really gone above and beyond.