Each year American Legion Post 353 honors three city employees who exemplify community spirit. The city employee of the year, police officer of the year, and fire department employee of the year were honored on March 9 during the American Legion Post 353 meeting.
“We are proud of our police, fire, and city employees,” said State Commander Don Kuntze. “We want everybody to know what a great job they do.”
The event took place at the Mustang Senior Center, 1201 N. Mustang Road. Post 353 Commander Paul Ray presented each recipient with a plaque, an American Legion Post 353 coffee mug, and a Post 353 coin recognizing the employees as “one of their own.”
City leaders from each department shared about why they nominated each employee. Jean Heasley, Parks and Recreation Assistant Director, surprised Adult Program Coordinator Ashley Wisner with news of her selection as the city employee of the year.
“She doesn’t know this, so right now she is kind of overwhelmed I’m sure,” Heasley said.
Wisner’s responsibilities include managing the senior center, as well as the fitness and adult programs. Heasley said Wisner has around 30 employees to lead and under her guidance the programs, some of which Wisner created, have grown in size and quality.
Heasley said the main reason she nominated Wisner was because she takes the time to help people find the assistance they need to be a vital part of the community.
“Many times she has gone beyond what would be expected of a city employee to find care for that person,” Heasley said.
Wisner said she was surprised and honored with the award.
“I love my job and the people in the community,” Wisner said. “They are great to work with.”
Next, Mustang Police Chief Rob Groseclose spoke to audience members about police officer of the year recipient, Cpl. Daniel Drake. Groseclose said Drake has worked for five years on the “midnight shift” with a passion for police work especially in the area of DUI and narcotic enforcement. Drake logged 297 arrests from Jan. 2012 to Jan. 2017.
“For Cpl. Drake, these statistics are not what fuels his drive for police work,” Groseclose said. “Rather, his strong sense of community and family as well as his desire to serve the citizens of Mustang compels him to serve the public and excel as a police officer.”
Ten years ago, Drake lost a close friend, to a brain tumor. This tragedy led Drake, with the help of friends, to organize a charity event to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. He selected the charity because it serves as a place where families stay free of charge while their children are being treated and it was the place his Hayes’ family had stayed.
Drake’s annual charity event, the Jarred Hayes Memorial, is a golf tournament hosted by the Golf Club of Surrey Hills. Since its inception the event has helped to raise $130,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.
“His drive and continued efforts have proven that Cpl. Daniel Drake is not only an outstanding police officer, but a true humanitarian,” Groseclose said. “His passion and big heart truly make him an asset to the Mustang Police Department and the citizens of our fine community.”
Drake said he was thankful for the award and recognition. He said he fell in love with Mustang when he moved here.
“I fell in love with the town, the citizens, business owners, and the brothers and sisters I work with every day” Drake said. “They are the reason I do what I do.”
For the final award of the night, Mustang Fire Chief Carl Hickman spoke about the recipient of the fire department employee of the year award, Fire Chaplain Rusty Stowe. Hickman said when he was asked to nominate someone for the award, one person immediately came to mind.
“His not a fireman anymore, but he certainly somebody who is absolutely important to our organization,” Hickman said.
Stowe served as pastor at Exchange Avenue Baptist Church in Oklahoma City for 28 years. He is currently the Senior Adult Minister at Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang. He served as chaplain and firefighter of the Navasota Fire Department in Texas and has received several crisis and peer support certifications.
In addition to serving as Mustang Fire Chaplain, Stowe serves as chaplain of the Oklahoma City Retired Firefighters Association.
“Since his appointment, Rusty has faithfully volunteered his time at no cost, providing counseling, spiritual support, and friendship to the Mustang Fire Department members and their families,” Hickman said. “He doesn’t do it for the recognition, but because of a true desire to serve our members and families.”
Stowe said it was an honor to be recognized by the American Legion.
“Actually I’m living my dream,” Stowe said. “I’m getting to do what I’ve loved to do with the last 45 years and that’s to hang out with these ‘hose draggers’ and to be there for them around the department.”
American Legion Post 353 meets at the Mustang Senior Center on the second Thursday of every month. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Post 353 has 140 members and was selected as the 2016-2017 Post of the Year out of 210 posts in the state.