Carver County Deputy Bob Zydowsky, Chanhassen High School school liaison officer, has been in the public safety business for a long time and has attended many similar events, but couldn’t help tearing up a little at Chanhassen's recent First Responders Recognition Night.
Mayor Elise Ryan, assisted by grade-schoolers and "Mayor for a Day" winners Amelia Wagner and Emme Rouse, handed out recognition pins to all members of the Chanhassen Fire Department and the city’s public safety officers at a Nov. 25 Chanhassen City Council meeting.
Students from Chanhassen Elementary School participated by presenting posters with words describing what the first responders represent to them: “courageous,” “tough,” “amazing," “hero,” “Kind.”
Local elected officials were also on hand to thank the first responders, including Carver County Commissioner Tom Workman, State Rep. Kelly Morrison, State Rep. Greg Boe, State Sen. David Osmek and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips.
“It was really cool,” Zydowsky said. “It was really heartfelt and it was especially meaningful to have the kids there. I was touched. It shows the city is super supportive of its first responders.”
“People don’t usually call us to say something positive,” said Carver County Sheriff Lt. Lance Pearce. “Usually they call us because they’re in situations where they’re not happy. So this was appreciated from our end to hear 'We appreciate what you do.'"
Chanhassen Fire Chief Don Johnson said that while he often hears positive remarks from the City Council when he attends meetings and gives his monthly fire report, “It was nice to have the firefighters hear it themselves from our local and state officials. I heard several comments about the presentation from the elementary school students. That was pretty special.”
This was the first time the City Council held a First Responders Appreciation Night, according to Mayor Ryan. She owed the idea to several contributing factors from the past year, including the Mayor for a Day contest winner letters, and conversations she’d had with both Lt. Pearce and Chief Johnson.
They talked about the mental toll of being a first responder, and “there has been much shared on a national level about the increased rate of suicide because of the daily challenging situations they face,” Ryan said, by email. “I felt very strongly that our sheriff’s deputies and fire department deserve a night solely dedicated to recognition, gratitude, thanks and appreciation for their service and sacrifice.”
Ryan contacted all the elected officials and received immediate support to participate, with the exception of State Sen. Scott Jensen, who had another commitment.
Ryan asked her friend Laura Allen, on the Chanhassen Elementary PTO, to have some of the students write or say something at the meeting. Allen and the students made signs and also put together a book of thank you notes for Johnson and Pearce.
The pinning ceremony was also special, Ryan said, because she was able to have Amelia Wagner and Emme Rouse, winners of the Mayor for a Day essay contest earlier this year, participate in a mayoral role by handing out pins and shaking hands.
“It also gave me a chance to individually, on behalf of council, shake the deputies' and firefighters' hands and thank them for their service,” Ryan said. “‘Community’ was one of my goals as mayor,” Ryan said. “The evening was the epitome of community coming together to thank the incredible and selfless work our first responders do each and everyday."