Bogalusa Rotary Club honors top firefighter, police officer

Published 5:55 am Friday, March 29, 2013

The city of Bogalusa honored two of its finest first responders Tuesday, recognizing the Police Officer and Firefighter of the Year at the weekly Rotary Club meeting held at Bogalusa Country Club.

Fire Chief Richard Moody introduced Firefighter of the Year Steve Moses, praising him as “one of the best arson investigators we have here.” He added that Moses has been with the department for nearly 33 years and serves as assistant chief.

“He helps me out a lot,” Moody said with a laugh. “Things that I want to do that I can’t do, he usually gets delegated to do.”

He congratulated Moses and presented him with a certificate from the city. President Scott Catalanotto also presented him with a plaque on behalf of the Rotary Club.

“I want to thank you all for recognizing me as Firefighter of the Year,” said Moses, adding that he has been on the job for “32 and a half years.

“I thank you all,” he said.

Bogalusa Police Chief Joe Culpepper introduced a long-time police officer as Police Officer of the Year.

“Wendell O’Berry has kind of a varied career in law enforcement,” said Culpepper.

His venture into law enforcement was as a military policeman in the U.S. Army when he served in Desert Storm, Culpepper noted, before he “went to the penitentiary.” Once the laughter subsided, he quickly added, “Worked there, not as an inmate.”

O’Berry moved on to working for the Causeway Police Department before he “got tired of making left hand turns down there and came up here where we allow him to make left- and right-hand turns,” said Culpepper, to more laughter.

O’Berry was promoted to the Detective Division last year.

“He’s a very dedicated, hard-working officer. Wendell does an outstanding job,” Culpepper said.

Culpepper noted that it’s not just the big crimes, such as murder, or rape or bank robbery, that touch people’s lives.

“You know, people get hung up on really big cases,” he said, but “there are a whole lot more of the burglaries, the thefts, the stuff that touches people more often and on a more personal level.”

It’s that dedication to solving all crimes, large and small, that made him the 2012 nominee for Police Officer of the Year, concluded Culpepper, as he presented O’Berry with his award.

After accepting the Rotary Club’s award from Catalanotto, O’Berry said, “I’d like to thank Capt. Bullen for the nomination and Chief Culpepper and staff for choosing me, and I’d also like to thank the Rotary and the Country Club for sponsoring this event every year.”

He continued, saying he came to work in Bogalusa, his hometown, “to serve and protect where I grew up.”