September

Sworn Team Members of the Month

September 2021 Sworn Team Members of the MonthSeptember 2021 Sworn Team Member of the Month

Walter “Corky” Burr and Kotter Kasischke
Sergeant                          Corporal
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Sergeant Walter “Corky” Burr and Corporal Kotter Kasischke, of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop D, are the September 2021 DPS Sworn Team Members of the Month for their courageous rescues of four people from dangerous flood water in McDonald County in southwest Missouri.

Following two days of heavy rain, the Marine Operations troopers were called out at 6:19 a.m. on March 13, 2021. Two vehicles had entered flooded Buffalo Creek at Missouri Highway 43 and the two occupants were caught in the flood water.

One victim was clinging to a tree, the other was stranded on top of his vehicle. The McDonald County emergency management director and a volunteer firefighter launched a boat and rescued the man clinging to the tree, but their boat’s engine then failed.

Corky and Kotter launched an inflatable boat into the swift flood water and first rescued the man on top of his vehicle. They then transferred the victim in the disabled boat into their craft and transported the man to safety on shore. Corky and Kotter then went back and used their inflatable boat to push the director's boat to where it could be secured to a tree. They then winched that boat out of the river and onto its trailer.

Shortly after, Corky and Kotter were dispatched again and rescued two more people. A man and a teenager were clinging to a tree in swift moving water after they attempted to cross a low water bridge over the Elk River.

Swift water rescues are inherently dangerous. In a matter of just a few hours, Corky and Kotter worked as team to bravely rescue four people during treacherous conditions.


Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month

September 2021 Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month

Jessica Robinson
Certified Nursing Assistant
Missouri Veterans Commission

Jessica Robinson, of the Missouri Veterans Home – Mexico, is the DPS September 2021 Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month. She has served as a Support Care Assistant in the Mexico home for almost six years.

Jessica worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant in the Mexico home’s COVID-19 Unit for the majority of the time it was in operation. Health care workers across the nation have discussed the tremendous stress and strain that working in COVID-19 units can bring. Despite the pressure, Jessica never wavered in her commitment to care for the home’s veterans. She continued to brighten the lives of veterans and other team members, no matter how difficult the day might be.

Jessica and her team dressed up during Christmas and brought holiday cheer to the veterans in the isolation unit by making gingerbread houses and decorating their personal protective equipment. The smiles and laughter Jessica brought during a dark time have shown her commitment to living the MVC mission. Jessica is emblematic of the Missouri Veterans Commission’s core values of integrity, putting service before self and striving for excellence in all that they do.

August

Sworn Employee of the Month

August 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month

James Corrigan
Officer
Missouri Capitol Police

Officer James Corrigan, of Missouri Capitol Police, is the August 2021 DPS Sworn Team Member of the Month for the meticulous and respectful manner in which he oversees the flying of the American, Missouri and POW flags at the Missouri Capitol for fallen officers and other special presentations.

Each year, Missouri Capitol Police flies more than 1,000 flags at the Capitol for presentations to public servants, veterans, the families of fallen officers and others. The proper handling of these flags is complicated and requires following strict protocols – everything from how they are folded and carried to when they are flown and how they are presented.

A 21-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, James understands the importance of following the rules for handling flags, but he goes much further. In addition to his other duties during his more than eight years with MCP, James has coordinated the agency’s commitment to fulfill every flag request in a timely manner. That means James sometimes comes in on off days to fulfill the mission. He teaches other officers proper flag etiquette, has created a flag request form and redesigned the certificate that accompanies all flag presentations.

James even spends his own money on police officer prayer coins that he folds into the flags prepared for the families of fallen officers.

James, an 18-year law enforcement veteran, is a model for others of the importance of organization, respect for established protocols and concern for the fallen.


Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

August 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

Jeff Alton
Region B Coordinator
State Emergency Management Agency

Jeff Alton, the Region B Coordinator for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, is the DPS August 2021 Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month.

Jeff is one of 10 SEMA regional coordinators that are embedded throughout the state, working directly with local partners on a daily basis. During the implementation of the statewide Mass Vaccination Program, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services established Regional Implementation Teams made up of medical personnel to assist in coordinating regional efforts with the support and assistance of local public health agencies. When DHSS was unable to secure a team in Region B, Jeff Alton stepped up to take the lead at the state level in coordination with the Missouri National Guard to support the planning efforts and operational activities for the mass vaccination events in Northeast Missouri. These responsibilities included working with each participating local public health agency to schedule site inspections, order and obtain vaccines, recruit vaccinators to administer vaccines, and secure volunteers to help conduct a well-organized event, all in addition to the expectations required in his role as Regional Coordinator.

Jeff was able to leverage his relationships with local partners in his current role to help meet and exceed the demands of multiple vaccination events a week – sometimes on the same day – to advance Missouri’s COVID-19 recovery efforts by getting more shots into the arms of Missourians. Jeff did this successfully in addition to supporting other emergency response activities as other incidents occurred locally.

Jeff’s determination to save lives and ability to go above and beyond in order to overcome several logistical challenges encouraged and increased local participation in these events across the region. Jeff often worked long days and weekends to ensure the events ran smoothly and he continues to demonstrate a strong work ethic by providing guidance and technical assistance to local communities around the clock throughout the pandemic and during severe weather.

July

Sworn Team Members of the Month

July 2021 Sworn Team Members of the MonthJuly 2021 Sworn Team Member of the Month

Jonathan T. (J.T.) Wilson and John J. West
Corporal         Corporal
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Corporals J.T. Wilson and John West, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control, are the July 2021 DPS Sworn Team Members of the Month for their fine criminal investigative work that led to multiple sexual assault and child pornography charges.

On Feb. 5, 2021, J.T. and John were contacted by two citizens at Troop E Headquarters in Poplar Bluff. They suspected that a Ripley County man was in possession of child pornography and was stealing children’s undergarments from area homes.

J.T. and John immediately contacted the suspect at his residence. Utilizing their interviewing skills and investigative experience, J.T. and John got the suspect to confess to possessing child pornography on his cellphone and to stealing the undergarments of young girls for his sexual gratification. During a second interview, the suspect admitted to molesting five children.

J.T. and John’s outstanding criminal investigation resulted in the suspect being charged with multiple counts of child molestation and possession of child pornography. Their hard work and dedication prevented a child predator from having the ability to victimize other children.


Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month

June 2021 Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month

Debbie Pingel
Restorative Aide
Missouri Veterans Commission

Debbie Pingel, of the Missouri Veterans Home – Cape Girardeau, is the DPS July 2021 Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month. Debbie was chosen because she’s the ultimate team player, willing to fill in anywhere she’s needed at any time, which makes an incredible difference for MVC veterans and her coworkers.

Debbie began with the Missouri Veterans Commission in November 1994. During her 27 years at the Cape Girardeau Home she has changed roles several times. She began as a Certified Nursing Assistant, transitioned to therapy aide, and is now a restorative aide. No matter the job title, Debbie has always provided compassionate care and has enthusiastically filled gaps whenever help was needed.

During the pandemic response, Debbie reported early to work to administer rapid COVID-19 tests and perform temperature checks when assistance was needed. No one was surprised because in the past she has assisted with housekeeping and in the laundry when staff members were unavailable. She’s even helped clean up outside the home when help was needed.

Debbie lives the Missouri Veterans Commission’s vision by providing high-quality care in all she does.

June

Sworn Team Members of the Month

June 2021 Sworn Team Member of the MonthJune 2021 Sworn Team Member of the Month

J. Todd Hedrick and Dave Nelson
Sergeant         Corporal
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Sergeant Todd Hedrick and Corporal Dave Nelson, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol Gaming Division, are the June 2021 DPS Sworn Employees of the Month for their outstanding criminal investigation stemming from a report of suspicious activity.

On Dec. 5, 2020, Todd and Dave responded to a vehicle in the River City Casino parking garage. Their contact with two individuals led them to request and gain consent to search the vehicle, which yielded numerous syringes and pill capsules containing Fentanyl. During extended interviews, the suspects told the troopers they purchased the Fentanyl in a hotel room at the casino.

Additional investigation identified two subjects in the hotel room, both of whom had numerous felony arrest warrants. Todd and Dave, with the assistance of the St. Louis County Police, made contact with the occupants of the hotel room. Both were arrested without incident. A search of the hotel room revealed an active “pill mill,” illegally manufacturing pill capsules containing narcotics. Loose Fentanyl powder, pill capsules, pill presses, and a loaded firearm were found in the room. Over 90 grams of pure Fentanyl was seized.

Todd and Dave’s fine investigative work led to four arrests and the seizure of deadly narcotics, preventing them from reaching the public and potential Fentanyl overdoses.


Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month

June 2021 Non-Sworn Team Member of the Month

Karen McHugh
Floodplain Manager and State National Flood Insurance Program Coordinator
State Emergency Management Agency

Karen McHugh, of the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, is the DPS June 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month. She was chosen for her extraordinary commitment to making Missouri a leader in floodplain management.

Karen works tirelessly with SEMA’s state, federal and local partners to help Missouri communities protect residents and businesses against flooding and manage floodplains. Recently, Karen was nominated by her peers and selected by FEMA’s Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) as the best in the nation for her excellence and technical knowledge in the management of a federal grant to provide flood loss reduction measures.

Karen successfully navigated the use of the new tools during the application process, overcame several state-specific challenges, and her passion for the program inspired fellow team members. Karen consistently strives for excellence and exceeds all expectations of her job duties. As a result, Missourians and communities across the state benefit because of her expertise in floodplain management and knowledge of FEMA programs.

May

Sworn Employee of the Month

May 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month

Garrett Loring
Sergeant
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Sergeant Garrett Loring, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control, is the May 2021 DPS Sworn Employee of the Month for his tireless investigative work that led to rescuing a child from severe abuse she had endured. Both parents face felony abuse charges.

On Sept. 1, 2020, after a local law enforcement agency requested assistance, Garrett initiated an investigation into allegations of child abuse. A five-year-old girl had been removed from her home after Missouri Children’s Division representatives found her to be extremely malnourished. Her condition was so dire she was flown by helicopter to a hospital for specialized care. The next day, Garrett attended a forensic interview of the child.

During the interview, the child said her parents routinely withheld food when she was hungry. Through witness interviews, Garrett learned the child was kept locked in a closet while the rest of the family ate meals. A babysitter informed him that the parents gave instructions to withhold food. A physician verified the child’s emaciated condition was the result of neglect.

Garrett spent countless hours investigating this horrific crime against a helpless child. After his investigation, both parents were charged with felony endangering the welfare of a child and felony abuse or neglect of a child. The child is recovering. Garrett’s commitment and dedication helped end an innocent child’s long suffering at the hands of her parents.


Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

May 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

Gavin McKenzie
Maintenance/Grounds Technician
Missouri Veterans Commission

Gavin McKenzie, a maintenance/grounds technician for the Missouri Veterans Commission, is the DPS May 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month. He was selected because of his ability to quickly take on numerous, varied leadership roles in order to provide veterans with quality care

Gavin works in the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg. Shortly after joining the Warrensburg Home, Gavin took on the role of interim warehouse supervisor. He quickly shifted gears from maintenance to construction, as he led his team in creating temporary structures for accommodating isolation and quarantine areas, and hand-holding stations so veterans could have face-to-face contact with loved ones. Drawing on previous work experience, Gavin volunteered to be the lead member of the home’s Respiratory Protection Plan and a certified N-95 respiratory mask fit-tester

Knowing the critical nature of personal protective equipment during the global pandemic, Gavin once again stepped up and took on the role of interim purchasing department leader until the position was filled in November. During his 14 months at the Missouri Veterans Home – Warrensburg, Gavin has done an outstanding job of fulfilling the Veterans Commission’s mission of providing quality, compassionate care, no matter the circumstances.

April

Sworn Employees of the Month

April 2021 Sworn Employee of the MonthApril 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month

Tyler R. Jenkins and Kurtis T. Welker
Master Sergeant         Trooper    
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Trooper Kurtis Welker and Master Sergeant Tyler Jenkins, both of Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop C, are the April 2021 DPS Sworn Employees of the Month for their tireless and thorough investigative work that led to charges against two people in a murder case.

On Aug. 30, 2020, Kurtis responded to a reported roadside assault on Interstate 64 in St. Charles County. The suspect had fled in a pickup pulling a car hauler trailer, images of which were captured on a vehicle’s dash camera. At the scene, Kurtis found an unconscious 68-year-old man in grave condition with trauma to his face. The victim died at a hospital.

Kurtis, Tyler and other investigators assigned to the Division of Drug and Crime Control initially had few leads to go on beyond the dash cam video.

Tyler took the initiative and asked a popular local Facebook page to post the video of the truck driving away. The post quickly led to numerous leads. Over several weeks Kurtis, Tyler and DDCC investigators followed leads, conducted multiple witness interviews, reviewed surveillance video captured by local businesses, obtained cell phone records and then executed search warrants at several locations.

Eventually, video and photographic evidence seized through the warrants led to the arrest of a husband and wife. Without Tyler and Kurtis’ tireless work ethic, the man might never have been charged with murder in the second degree, and his wife charged with being an accessory to second-degree murder.


Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

April 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

Karen Sartain
LPN Core Charge Nurse
Missouri Veterans Commission

Karen Sartain, a Licensed Practical Nurse Core Charge Nurse for the Missouri Veterans Commission, is the DPS April 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month. She was selected for the compassionate care she provides the home’s heroes.

Karen currently works the night shift for the Missouri Veterans Home in Mexico. One night recently, a Veteran notified nursing staff that a fellow Veteran was trembling in his sleep and needed attention. Karen quickly responded to the call to find the Vietnam Veteran startled from a deep sleep, clearly upset about a horrific dream he just had. Realizing the situation was not a medical emergency but that the Veteran could use some support, Karen took the initiative to sit with and console him a considerable period of time.

This simple act bonded the two individuals and showed how Karen not only cares for Veterans' physical well-being but their physiological needs as well. During her 18 months at the Missouri Veterans Home – Mexico, Karen has proven herself as a dependable and hardworking individual who is an invaluable asset to the Missouri Veterans Commission.

March

Sworn Employees of the Month

March 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month March 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month March 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month March 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month

Trooper Thomas Reents
Troop C
Sergeant Paul J. Kempker
Field Operations Bureau
Corporal Dustin B. Reed
Division of Drug and Crime Control
Corporal Jason A. Ashby
Division of Drug and Crime Control
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Thomas Reents, Paul J. Kempke, Dustin B. Reed and Jason A. Ashby, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, are the DPS March 2021 Sworn Employees of the Month for their thorough investigative work on what appeared to be an accidental fatal traffic crash but led to charges in a criminal death case.

On August 23, 2020, Troop C Trooper Thomas Reents responded to a reported vehicle crash on the Discovery Bridge in St. Louis County in which a motorcycle struck the median wall and the driver was ejected into the river. Thomas quickly noticed two fresh skid marks traveling parallel with the motorcycle's skid marks. He determined a second vehicle was involved, but had left the scene and requested the Major Crash Investigation Team respond to assist with the investigation.

Field Operations Bureau Sergeant Kempke responded. An investigation of the physical evidence led Paul to determine a motor vehicle intentionally struck the motorcycle by reversing into it. Division of Drug and Crime Control criminal investigator corporals Reed and Ashby responded to the scene. Dustin and Jason’s investigation resulted in criminal charges being filed for the death of the victim.

From start to conclusion, this was a strong example of thoroughness and training put into action. Thomas Reents recognized this incident was more than a traffic crash and took action. Paul Kempke applied his technical crash investigation expertise. Dustin Reed and Jason Ashby diligently put their investigative skills to work. Because of their combined efforts, what could have been mistakenly classified as a fatal traffic crash investigation resulted in charges a criminal death investigation.


Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

March 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

Caty Luebbert
Public Information Director
State Emergency Management Agency

Caty Luebbert, the Public Information Director for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, is the DPS March 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month.

Since joining SEMA in late 2018, Caty has taken on increasing responsibilities, including video production, graphic art, expanding social media capabilities and much more. SEMA’s social media reach has almost tripled on both Facebook and Twitter. Caty has also greatly advanced SEMA’s response capabilities and effectiveness with media outlets, local and federal stakeholders, and video and other support for Department of Public Safety divisions, state departments and the Governor’s office.

In addition to her PIO duties, Caty has taken a leading role in providing weekly updates for the Governor’s office on SEMA’s work fighting the pandemic and regularly fills gaps at SEMA when other staff members are not available. Her work has been particularly important during the pandemic, when there have been additional needs at SEMA and support has been required for projects that can no longer take place in-person.

While juggling her normal responsibilities at SEMA, Caty has shot and edited numerous videos highlighting the state’s work with PPE warehousing and distribution, Remdesivir shipments, MO DMAT-1 training, and training videos. The Governor’s office recently assigned Caty responsibility for setting up a Joint Information Center to deal with communications coordination for the statewide Mass Vaccination Program. This required long hours and Caty excelled at establishing relations with state and local partners.

Caty is the ultimate team player and helps raise the performance of all those with whom she works.

February

Sworn Employee of the Month

February 2021 Sworn Employee of the Month

Jeffrey W. Huff
Corporal
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Jeffrey W. Huff, a corporal in Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop A, is the February 2021 DPS Sworn Employee of the Month for the care and compassion he demonstrated with a suicidal teenager. The boy’s mother has credited Jeffrey with saving the boy’s life.

On a Sunday night in August 2020, Jeffrey stopped a vehicle traveling 113 miles an hour on Interstate 70 east of Kansas City. When he learned the driver was 16 years old, Jeffrey had the boy call his parents. While he was on the phone, Jeffrey learned the teen was experiencing depression and was suicidal.

Jeffrey decided to share his own personal experience of loss. Jeffrey’s own brother had died by suicide. He explained to the boy how the loss of his brother had affected his entire family. He talked about the benefits of talking with others and working with medical professionals.

The teen’s parent came to the traffic stop scene, talked with Jeffrey, and then informed him they would take their son directly to a hospital.

Later, Jeffrey was contacted by the teen’s mother. She told him she could never thank him for what he had done for her son. She explained that as they had driven away from the traffic stop scene her son explained his plan to take his own life. He had told his parents, “That trooper saved my life tonight.”

Late at night on the side of an interstate, Jeffrey epitomized the Patrol’s core value of compassion. He took the time to listen to a teenager in crisis and intervened in a very personal way, sharing his own story of loss, and his actions helped a boy decide he wanted to live.

*Named Missouri State Employee of the Month for March 2021


Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

February 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

Kimberly Threet
Clerk Typist III
Missouri State Highway Patrol

Kim Threet, a Clerk Typist III at Missouri State Highway Patrol General Headquarters, is the DPS February 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month.

In mid-May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a longtime employee of the Patrol’s Driver and Vehicle Safety Division retired, leaving the full-time position vacant. The duties were extremely time-sensitive, including processing emissions and safety inspections records from stations around the state to meet daily deadlines and promptly fulfilling orders for a variety of motor vehicle safety inspection stickers and decals.

Kim, whose own full-time position in the Driver and Vehicle Safety Division is quite demanding, managed to research the responsibilities of the vacant position, learned the necessary processes and procedures, and juggled both full-time positions for five months, until a new employee could be brought on board.

It was quite a challenge, but Kim prioritized pressing issues and found a way to handle both positions. She met the deadlines for the most time-sensitive requirements and also took the initiative to train other employees so responsibilities could be shared in the future, if necessary.

Working overtime and extremely efficiently, Kim set an outstanding example for her fellow employees throughout the Department of Public Safety

January

Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

January 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month

Jeff Smithee
Maintenance Supervisor
Missouri Veterans Commission

Jeff Smithee, of the Missouri Veterans Commission, is the DPS January 2021 Non-Sworn Employee of the Month.

Jeff, who is a maintenance supervisor at the Missouri Veterans Commission’s Mexico Veterans Home, was chosen for his flexibility, willingness to sacrifice his personal interests to put in extra hours to accomplish critical work and commitment to serving Missouri’s veterans

On Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, MVC leadership learned assistance was needed constructing an isolation unit the following week at the Cape Girardeau Veterans Home because of COVID-19. Initially, Jeff was not contacted because he had been approved for vacation days the following week and he works at the Mexico Veterans Home, a considerable distance from Cape Girardeau. However, Jeff was called when it became clear an additional person would be needed

Once reached by phone, Jeff volunteered without hesitation to travel to Cape Girardeau to assist with the important work required there.

Jeff is an outstanding example of a team member’s commitment to upholding MVC’s mission of honoring and serving Missouri’s veterans whose dedication and sacrifices have helped preserve our nation and its freedoms.