Goshen, N.Y. - Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus has proudly announced the recipients of the 2021 Meritorious Service Awards in the following service categories: Public Health, Law Enforcement, Military, Fire, and Emergency.
“The Health Department mobilized in response to the pandemic in early March 2020 and has really worked tirelessly since then, collaborating with my office and the County’s Emergency Services Department in mitigation efforts,” Neuhaus said. “I commend them for their commitment to the health and safety of our residents, dedication to helping bolster testing and vaccinations, and their ability to work seamlessly with the hospitals, healthcare facilities and agencies throughout the County. We may face more COVID-19 related challenges in the future, but I know that the Health Department will continue to work passionately, efficiently and effectively for our County.”
Members of the County’s Health Department were recognized for their ongoing efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Neuhaus thanked the Health Department for their diligence, hard work and perseverance during the public health emergency, specifically commending Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman, Deputy Commissioner Chris Ericson, Deputy Commissioner Mike Ventre, Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator Kathy Barnett, Epidemiologist Jacqueline Lawler, Director of Patient Services Heather Boss, Assistant County Attorney for the Health Department Lisa Lahiff, Director of Health Equity Barbara Clifford, Public Health Technician Dayquan Crandell, and Call Center Coordinator Danielle Moser.
“In the face of a variety of obstacles, the Health Department showed determination, grit and commitment to protecting the public health, and the well-being of County residents,” Dr. Gelman said. “The local response to this global coronavirus pandemic would not be possible without the dedication and sacrifice of all of our staff, contractors and volunteers.”
Other Meritorious Service Award recipients were:
Officer Chris Deets, Town of New Windsor Police Department: Deets, recently retired from New Windsor PD and a U.S. Army veteran, was selected as the Department’s Officer of the Year in 2019. Some of Deets’s career highlights include responding to a call for a 70-year-old male who had sustained two .22 caliber gunshot wounds to the chest. Deets quickly assessed the condition of the victim and helped staunch the bleeding before the ambulance arrived. His quick response and immediate actions were credited with saving the victim’s life. Two months later, Deets helped a 28-year-old woman deliver her baby on the side of Little Britain Road. The baby went into distress, but Deets performed lifesaving CPR on the newborn.
New York State Police Trooper Daniel J. Kokulak: Trooper Kokulak has served with distinction since joining the State Police in March of 2016. Working out of Troop F in Monroe, between August 2019 and July 2020 Kokulak made 53 felony arrests, 117 misdemeanor arrests and 50 violation arrests. Many of those arrests involved large amounts of serious drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and Oxycodone. Kokulak also removed 27 impaired drivers from Orange County roadways, issued 361 Uniform Traffic Tickets and investigated 344 calls for service.
Hudson Valley Crime Analysis Center Investigator Kelsey McDonough: McDonough, an Investigator with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, has assisted in thousands of case investigations, and her hard work and effort help to make Orange County a safer place to live. Some of McDonough’s recent highlights include assisting the Town of New Windsor with a homicide investigation in September 2019, and in January 2020, McDonough worked with the State Police to arrest a suspect who committed armed robbery in Kiryas Joel. Five months later, she collaborated with law enforcement agencies to arrest a suspect involved in a shootout with the New York Police Department (NYPD). McDonough is also credited with assisting the Village of Washingtonville PD with the apprehension of the suspects who defaced the Village with graffiti and destroyed the 9/11 Memorial Flagpole.
Investigator Angel Mendoza, Orange County Sheriff’s Office: In 2018, Investigator Mendoza was assigned to allegations of sexual abuse case. The suspect had been under investigation for numerous sex crimes dating back to 2012. Mendoza’s interviews of the victims and further investigation revealed enough evidence for a search warrant to be issued on November 2, 2018. During the execution of the search warrant, many electronic devices were seized, and analysis of the devices resulted in evidence supporting the victims’ statements. The suspect was arrested and charged with Predatory Sexual Assault of a Child. On July 15, 2021, the suspect pled guilty and will serve a sentence in State Prison.
Lt Col Lewis DeMaso: While commuting to work on the morning of October 21, 2020, DeMaso, Commander of the Air National Guard 105th Operations Support Squadron, was involved in a severe multi-vehicle accident when a commercial tree service truck hit a Washingtonville school bus and DeMaso’s own vehicle. Upon impact, his vehicle was thrown across the road into the guardrail. Upon exiting his vehicle, DeMaso called 911 while rushing to the bus to assist the eight children and one driver onboard. He gathered seven of the students and tried to keep them calm by moving them to a driveway away from the scene. He then solicited the assistance of the resident of that home, who stayed with the children while DeMaso returned to the driver and one student who were unable to be safely removed until emergency services had arrived.
Cronomer Valley Fire Department: Firefighters from Cronomer Valley FD responded to a sinking car at 9W and North Plank Road during a downpour with rain accumulations of four to five inches per hour on July 8, 2020. One of the occupants of the distressed vehicles was handicapped and low on oxygen. With the vehicle submerged, firefighters were able to free the man and the other occupants, with assistance from the Middlehope Fire Department.
Goshen Fire Department: Captain David Collado, Lieutenant John Jonas and Firefighter Rory Pettus collaborated to rescue an unconscious man in an underground storage tank on October 19, 2019, on Greenwich Avenue in Goshen. Pettus entered the tank through a manhole and provided the victim critical breathing air via a rescue SCBA pack. Collado enlarged the opening of the tank for the rescue and Jonas assisted Pettus in extracting the victim, who was rushed to a local hospital and survived.
Greenville Fire Department, Mountain View Fire Rescue: Honored for its response to a serious motor vehicle accident on eastbound Interstate 84 on May 27, 2020. Chief Frank Hauber and firefighters Craig Lynch, Teddy Suchoruki Jr., Jason Dunn, and Donald Wieboldt helped rescue a woman in an SUV who rear-ended a stationary fire police truck. The woman suffered a severe head injury, and was trapped inside the vehicle, which caught fire. The firefighters were able to free the woman and save her life, despite her becoming combative during the rescue efforts due to head trauma.
Past Chief Robert Reynolds Sr., Montgomery Fire Department: Reynolds has been a distinguished member of the Montgomery Fire Department for 45 years and is greatly respected by his peers throughout Orange County. Reynolds joined the Fleet Hook and Ladder Company #1 in 1976 and has served as Vice President and President of the Company, as well as Vice President and President and Chief of the Montgomery Fire Department. Reynolds has proudly held all the Orange County Volunteer Firemen’s Association (OCVFA) Vice President positions and was the 2020 President.
Mary Pat Smith, Assistant to Orange County Executive: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith has provided County Executive Neuhaus with a variety of information for his popular COVID-19 video updates on Facebook. Smith worked diligently with the County’s hospitals and other stakeholders in gathering this important information. She was also an integral part of the Points of Distribution (PODs) for the COVID-19 vaccinations held at Hatfield Lane.
Past Chief Charles Tonneson, Cornwall-on-Hudson Fire Department: Tonneson has been active with the Cornwall-on-Hudson FD for over 50 years, and has held many administrative positions, including Vice President, Trustee, Recording Secretary and Quartermaster. He has also served as a Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant and achieved the rank of Chief in 1982. Tonneson has been an active member of the Fire Service in Orange County and New York State, as a member of the Orange County Fire Advisory Board, a delegate for FASNY, and a member of the Orange County Fire Chiefs Association. He has been involved in many other fire service organizations during his long service career.
Senior Public Safety Dispatcher Joseph Codi: Codi received a 9-1-1 call on July 26, 2020, regarding an unconscious man who was not breathing after suffering a heart attack. He quickly dispatched emergency services and provided cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructions for four minutes until the Sparrowbush Fire Department and Deerpark Police Department arrived on the scene. The patient began breathing and was transported by Port Jervis EMS to the hospital. The man later underwent successful heart surgery at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City.
“The men and women who commit their lives to public service in this capacity don’t do it for awards or accolades which makes it even more of an honor to recognize their exemplary service,” Neuhaus said. “Our first responders deserve to be appreciated and commended for making Orange County a safer place to live and work, especially after the challenging year that we have all faced.”
For more information, contact Justin Rodriguez, Assistant to the County Executive for Communications and Media Relations at 845.291.3255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.