Most Viewed Stories
Community again recognizes ‘local heroes'
Exchange Club honors six who serve
What do a city firefighter, a county firefighter, a CHP officer, a Tulare County Sheriff’s deputy, a county prosecutor and a city police investigator have in common besides being engaged in public safety: They are the latest officers recognized by the Porterville Exchange Club.
Five men and a woman were honored Wednesday night during the annual Crime Prevention Dinner sponsored by the local club. More than 200 people turned out to pay their respects to the men and women on the front lines.
“We thank all of our heroes that walk out of their homes every day and never know what’s going to happen,” said Exchange Club president Betty Luna. “Thank you for what all you do,” she added.
Honored were: TCSD Deputy of the Year, Joe England; County Fireman of the Year, Capt. Richardo Castillo; County District Attorney Prosecutor of the Year, Kerri Lopez; Highway Patrolman of the Year, Matthew Tyler, Porterville Firefighter of the Year, Engineer Cody Clem and Porterville Police Officer of the Year, Det. Brett McGowen.
During his keynote address, Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz praised all of those in attendance, saying he salutes, “the first responders who truly are the heroes in the Valley.”
Fultz, who said he was so honored 16 years ago, promised those in attendance, especially law enforcement, the DA’s office is committed to assisting the victims of crimes that are so often forgotten.
“The DA’s office is committed to guiding victims through the criminal justice system,” he vowed.
Tulare County Fire Capt. Ricardo Castillo
A native of Porterville, Castillo has been with the county fire department since 2007 and was promoted to fire captain in 2010. He is assigned to the Doyle Colony station.
County Fire Chief Joe Garcia, noting how many of Castillo’s peers in attendance, said it was a, “testament to respect of Capt. Castillo. It speaks highly of the man.”
Garcia noted that Castillo is a family man.
“With all he has accomplished, his biggest accomplishment he feels is his beautiful family,” he said.
California Highway Patrol Officer Matthew Tyler
CHP Commander Erick Jennings told the many accomplishments of Officer Tyler, including a recent traffic stop that led to the recovery of three stolen vehicles, stolen property and the arrest of four people, saying it is work like that which makes Tyler a valuable member of his department.
“He is an excellent choice (as officer of the year),” said Jennings.
A native of Lindsay, Jennings has been with the CHP since 2000 and was assigned to the Porterville office in 2003. He has been recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving and is a weapon’s instructor and range officer.
Porterville Police Det. Brett McGowen
Porterville Police Chief Chuck McMillan said his detective found his calling when he became a detective. “That’s where his talent is,” he said, adding he solved 30 burglaries in 2012 alone.
The chief added he was instrumental in apprehending suspects in the most recent killing in town.
The chief noted that his honoree came from a long line of police officers, from his great-grandfather on down.
McGowen joined the PD in 2007 after working for the Dinuba Police Department and then the sheriff’s department.
In accepting his award, McGowen said he did so on behalf of all the men and women in the department. “It’s teamwork,” he said.
Porterville Firefighter Cody Clem
Fire Lt. Aaron Brunelle said Clem “is known for his boundless energy,” and said not only has he excelled as a firefighter, but takes on many tasks to improve his community, such as the departments Fill the Boot drive for Muscular Dystrophy.
“He’s just one of those guys that can’t say no to anything,” said Brunelle. “I’ve never seen anyone so dedicated and willing to give back to the community.”
Clem, a native of Porterville, joined the department in 2006 as a reserve firefighter and then was given full duty in 2010.
In accepting the honor, Clem said he loves his job. “This job is awesome. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
District Attorney Kerri Lopez
Fultz said his department’s honoree is a local success story. She was raised in Visalia and jointed the DA’s office part-time while still attending law school. Last year she was promoted to supervisor in the department.
She has handled several significant cases, including several in Porterville, noted Fultz.
“Kerri has been an outstanding prosecutor. Her record speaks for itself.”
Lopez prosecuted the Gonzales brothers and Victor Alvarado, getting convictions and life sentences for all.
She said what makes her job rewarding is how well everyone works to well together in the office. She also thanked her parents for the support they gave her, especially her father, retired Superior Court Judge Ron Couillard.
Sheriff’s Deputy Joe England
Porterville substation commander Lt. Gary Hunt said England, a five-year veteran in the department, is well respected by his peers.
He told a story of how England was concerned with a high number of thefts from vehicles in the Earlimart area and combated that by walking the streets of that city to capture several suspects.
“That’s the kind of deputy I want,” he said.
England has served two tours in Iraq, one after he had joined the sheriff’s department. He is a K-9 officer and he and his dog, Roscoe, were used 68 times in the field, including 23 surrenders and 19 apprehensions. They has also placed at K-9 trials.
“Together, he and Roscoe have had a pretty good year,” said Hunt.