CORNELIUS – The Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce honored local police, fire and rescue squads in its annual public safety luncheon on Oct. 17 at the Peninsula Club.

Officer Joseph Squashic was named Cornelius Police Officer of the Year, Officer Phil Geiger won Davidson Police Officer of the Year and Detective Jennifer Sprague earned Huntersville’s honors.

Those in fire safety who were presented with awards were Firefighter Bill Schick (Cornelius), Deputy Chief Ryan Monteith (Davidson) and Firefighter Bill Suthard (Huntersville). Brandy Lankford was honored as the recipient for the North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad.

Tamara Williams, the dean of Central Piedmont Community College’s Merancas Campus, delivered the luncheon’s keynote address.

Williams said many of the lake area’s public safety organizations received training from CPCC-Merancas prior to joining the police or fire departments.

“Without our public safety officers, our community would not be what it is today,” she said.

She mentioned the need for more space to better train its students.

“Our vision is to be the No. 1 leader in workforce development,” she said. “Just like North Mecklenburg (as a whole), we have experienced a lot of growth. This year alone, we’ve experienced a 12-percent growth.”

Chamber leaders voiced their appreciation for both the region’s public safety officers and CPCC-Merancas’ efforts.

“Our police, fire and first-responders play a critical role not only in the safety of our families and businesses, but in our quality of life,” Chamber of Commerce President Bill Russell said. “Each and every day, the men and women, who make up our public safety officers protect our homes, businesses and schools.  The stories we heard at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce luncheon are a testament to their dedication and commitment.  We are very fortunate to have the paid officers and volunteer staff who work each day on behalf of our citizens and visitors and ultimately make the Lake Norman region a great place to live, work and visit.”

Wendy Moran, chairwoman of the chamber's board of directors, echoed Russell’s sentiments.

“As the daughter of a fire chief, I grew up in a fire bay, so I totally know how to appreciate the countless hours and the heart and passion that goes into what they do every day," Moran said. "We heard several stories today (of police, fire and rescue squads’ efforts), but I’m sure they’re just some of thousands of stories of things that happen daily between all the civil servant organizations daily. Not only to our recipients but also to all those who serve, we appreciate it.”

CPCC-Merancas Director of Public Safety Training Christopher Hailey believes those who serve the region play an integral role in residents’ lives.

“Most of all your public safety officers who were represented, we trained them as part of our programs,” he said. “It’s very important for the community to thank them and give their appreciation to all our public service personnel.”