Public Servants Honored

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The Rim Country Rotary Club selected the following Payson public servants of the year.

Vince Palandri, Firefighter

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Vince Palandri, firefighter

Firefighter Vince Palandri never stops training.

If he has down time in the evening he cracks open a book and studies. And when he isn't studying, he prepares for his presentations as Payson Fire Department's Public Education Coordinator.

Palandri started as a full-time firefighter with the department in October 2003.

"Everybody thinks that this job is spray water, lots of fire calls, but the bulk of it is medical. You get to understand the seniors in particular," said Palandri. "The burn doesn't bother me. The blood and guts doesn't bother me..."

But working so close to death makes him ponder his own mortality.

Balancing his family is another challenge Palandri faces as a firefighter -- sometimes he doesn't see his daughters for days.

Yet he feels there are advantages to his schedule. His position as a firefighter is different from running his own construction company. As a business owner, he had to think about numbers and clients all the time.

"I really love this job because when I go home I don't think about it again until I come back," said Palandri.

Palandri also appreciates the diversity of his position.

"You never really know what the next tone is going to bring you. They may call you for a motor vehicle accident and you don't know if it is a little scrape or if they are upside down until you get there."

Detective Matt Van Camp

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Detective Matt Van Camp

Detective Matt Van Camp enjoys the rewarding aspects of his livelihood. He recalled an incident early in his career when he was at Payson Regional Medical Center on-call. A woman walked in carrying her bleeding friend.

The victim had been shot in the head during a road rage incident near Highway 188. He got a description of the vehicle and left immediately to look for the suspect. Luck was with him. The shooter was found driving through town; Van Camp stopped the vehicle and arrested the driver.

Van Camp's specialty is in collision investigation. He is also a hostage crisis negotiator, and a member of the special response team and the Gila County narcotics task force. He became a detective in 2001.

Van Camp deals with job stress by spending time with his family and working in the yard. He laughed and said, "I collect garden tractors. I have only three right now, but for me, that's a collection."

In his career, Van Camp has had people he arrested come back to him later and tell him that what he did, even though the situation was negative, set them straight.

"All any cop is after is to know we've made a difference in one person's life," said Van Camp.

Monique Usher, 911 dispatcher

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Monique Usher, 911 dispatcher

Monique Usher's toughest call came in several months ago when a man on the other line said he had an AK-47 assault rifle. The caller said he'd shot four people, and wanted to die by the officer's hand. Otherwise, he wouldn't go to heaven.

The call lasted for 25 minutes at 2 a.m. Usher kept a cool head for the safety of the two officers on the scene and the people inside the house.

She kept the man occupied while officers set up a perimeter.

While it turned out the caller was lying and hadn't actually shot anybody, Usher was concerned for the officers' safety.

"It was horrible," said Usher. "I stayed on the phone long enough to hear the guy tased. I knew my officers were OK."

Usher recalled the first call that gave her confidence to serve as a dispatcher. It happened when she worked at Southwest Ambulance in Casa Grande, which had one dispatcher and two 911 lines.

A man called and said the barbecue had lit his wife's hair on fire. Knowing that the oxygen was fueling the fire, she told the caller to tell his wife to stick her head in the tub or the toilet.

"It's never boring. You never know what kind of call you are going to get when you answer the phone," said Usher. "There's nothing like the adrenaline."

Usher has worked as a 911 dispatcher in Payson for three years. She considers her livelihood a lifetime career. She has small children, otherwise she might consider becoming a police officer.

"I love my kids and I have a lot of patience with them," said Usher. "They are my stress relief from the job."

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