Every day they put their lives on the line, sacrifice countless hours with their families, put in overtime and are willing to go the extra mile to serve and protect the citizens of Roswell.
We take for granted all the sacrifices that the men and women of the sheriff’s department, police department, state police, fire department and first responders make every time they put on their uniforms. I would like to extend a special thanks to the wonderful and courageous heroes of Chaves County who allowed me a glimpse into their lives as first responders and shared with me why they chose careers in public service.
Lieutenant Mike Herrington is an officer of the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). When asked why he wanted to work in law enforcement, this is what he had to say: “When I was in high school, I had become a member of the Police Explorers, and I liked the officers and the line of work they did.” After 22 years with Roswell’s sheriff’s department, he noted that “I like the way law enforcement agencies work together to catch predators within the community, [but I] dislike the way the courts rule when it comes to repeat offenders. I believe the sentences should be harsher.” Herrington enjoys refereeing football and teaches a class called “How to survive an active killer.” This class teaches people in schools, churches, work places—anywhere in the community—how to prepare and what to do should an active killer enter their building. The in-depth training allows each person to better understand how to handle the situation and is very informative and beneficial for anyone.
CCSO Detective Maria Wilson has been enforcing the law in Roswell for 15 years. She served as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for two years, then as a patrol officer for ten years, which brought her to her current position as a detective. Her favorite parts of being a detective are “knowing that I can help children that have been sexually and physically abused, and to be able to find justice for the victims.” She bragged, “I love what I do, and I work for a great agency.” Her one complaint about this selfless job is that the paperwork is never-ending. She enjoys reading, gets few hours of sleep and puts in lots of overtime to do her job well. “There are ups and downs just like any other job. My co-workers are like my family, and I love what I do.” She explained that the state police are crucial in helping the police and sheriff’s departments in Roswell. She noted that the state police are willing to do whatever they are asked and play an essential role in keeping the community safe.
Sergeant Scott Ouillette has been with the CCSO for 17½ years. Prior to his current career in law enforcement, he served in both the United States Army and the United States Air Force, retiring from the military with 26 years of experience. His hobbies include hunting, fishing, hiking and kayaking. He admitted that he doesn’t care for the sarcastic comments from the public, but his favorite part about working for the sheriff’s department is the company he is surrounded by. “I have a great team, they get along well together, and I enjoy working with my shift. They are like a family.”
One thing I learned about the law enforcement officers in Roswell is that they are happy to assist the public in any way they can. I recently had the privilege of accompanying Deputy Pedro Silvas on a ride-along. I experienced firsthand the typical day of someone who works in the line of duty. I observed him completing typical daily tasks such as patrolling in his district, looking for expired vehicle tags, giving warnings, issuing citations, answering calls and serving as a back-up for other officers. Silvas has been involved in law enforcement for 17 years, and when asked why he chose his career path, he shared a personal testimonial with me.
When he was 10 years old, he was living in California with his father and step-mother (his mother having passed away five years earlier). One day a man tried to break into their house while he and his sister were home alone. He called his grandfather nearby, who told him that he would start walking there right away. With no cell phones back then, the two children had no choice but to nervously wait for their grandfather’s help. By the time their grandfather arrived, the intruder had removed a side window and was already in the house. The man grabbed Silvas and held a knife to his neck, but the ten-year-old managed to get loose. When the intruder then fled, Silvas chased him on foot. He found a police officer and told him that his house had just been broken into, but the officer would not do anything about it. Silvas recalled, “It took a tragic moment in my childhood for me to decide that I wanted to be a cop. That cop left a huge impression on my life, and that is when I decided that I wanted to go into law enforcement one day.”
Retired Chief Mike Mathews began his career as a firefighter with the Berrendo Volunteer Fire Department in 1981. In 1983 he was hired on with the Roswell Fire Department (RFD) where he worked his way up to driver, then lieutenant, assistant chief, and finally, chief in 2002 before retiring in 2005. On January 12, 2006, Mayor Bill Owen proclaimed the day as “Fire Chief Mike Mathews Day.” When asked why he became a firefighter, Mathews replied, “My Uncle Buck was a volunteer fireman and took me out on my first fire. Then I was hooked.” His favorite part about being involved in the fire department was the camaraderie, excitement and adrenaline rush. Mathews recalled how he made lifelong friendships, but he confessed that he did not like the sacrifice of time away from his family, nor did he work for the money, as the pay was very low. As a retiree, Mathews spends his time hunting, golfing, working in his shop and fishing.
Fire Chief Devin Graham has been a member of RFD for almost 18 years. Graham enjoys his work, and when he is not on duty, he enjoys hunting, shooting and hanging out with his beautiful wife. He grew up around a volunteer fire department and always knew that he would eventually be a firefighter himself. Graham said, “Being mentally and physically prepared is paramount to doing this job. [With] some calls, there is no way to prepare.”
It may seem to some as if sheriff’s deputies and police officers are out to get you or a firefighter dressed in all his gear is something scary. The reality is they are just doing their jobs. They are here to protect and serve you. During the seven-hour shift I spent with the sheriff’s department on my ride-along, I was welcomed with open arms and became part of their family. I am so thankful for the opportunity to walk in their shoes for a few hours. Nothing can compare to the sacrifices they make for our safety.
These men and women sacrifice personal and family time and are willing to do whatever it takes to save and protect the community. They don’t get enough credit for what they do. They see devastated families and are there to comfort the hurting. They put their lives on the line every day whether in or out of uniform because they love what they do. To the men and women who serve Roswell, WE SALUTE YOUR SACRIFICE!