Top officer, firefighter honored
BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Friday, March 15, 2019
A 21-year veteran of the Rocky Mount Fire Department and a six-year veteran of the Rocky Mount Police Department have been named tops by their peers in their respective departments, as a result of balloting sponsored by the local Lions Club.
Battalion Chief Tracey Drewery, 45, and Cpl. Laurie Middleswarth, 31, each received the honors at a club luncheon on Thursday at Englewood United Methodist Church.
The local Lions believe while there’s no way they can compensate the top firefighters and police officers for the risks they take, they hope they can let them know — with a small token of appreciation — they have the club’s thanks and support.
The local Lions also believe Rocky Mount is lucky to have such dedicated professionals.
Drewery, in accepting the firefighter of the year honor, began by thanking God.
“Thank you for your continued effort and support to the community,” he told the club members, “and also for honoring guys like us in our profession. It means a lot to us.”
To his co-workers and supervisors, Drewery said, “Thank you all for the continued support throughout the years and for believing in me."
Drewery’s wife and one of his three children were on hand for the gathering. To his family present, he told them he loved them for their effort and work in supporting a firefighter.
Middleswarth, in accepting the police officer of the year honor, thanked her mother, Connie Middleswarth, and her father, John Middleswarth, both of whom were in the audience.
“It’s been a team effort,” Laurie Middleswarth said. “They’ve given me a work ethic that began obviously from birth and I’ll carry with me until the day I die.”
Both Drewery and Middleswarth have extensive backgrounds.
Drewery, after joining the fire department in early 1998, quickly rose up the ranks, becoming a captain by 2003. He has been battalion chief of operations since 2017.
He holds an associate’s degree in fire protection from Wilson Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and computer information systems from N.C. Wesleyan College. Also, he served in the U.S. Army National Guard as a reservist.
Fire Chief Mike Varnell on Thursday read aloud a nomination a member of the fire department had submitted for consideration of Drewery.
The nomination in part said Drewery is quite deserving because of his continuous dedication to the fire department and the department’s personnel, along with being a true professional and a role model for everyone he encounters.
Varnell himself had kind words for Drewery, saying, “He has a good, calm and supporting demeanor — and we really appreciate the consistency there.”
“His dedication to the organization is replicated daily, as he always displays a very positive attitude and will assist anyone that needs help,” Varnell said.
Middleswarth was in the U.S. Marine Corps and served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Middleswarth, while in the Marines, worked as a bomb technician.
Middleswarth joined the Rocky Mount police force in early 2013 and by 2018 was promoted to corporal and has worked in a variety of divisions.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from N.C. Wesleyan College, having graduated magna cum laude. She’s the only woman on the city force to serve on the police department’s special response team and she also serves on the city police honor guard.
Off duty, she enjoys competing in strongwoman competitions nationwide.
Police Chief George Robinson called her an asset to the police department and a great leader and role model for all officers to emulate.
Afterward, John Middleswarth said he and his wife were proud of their daughter receiving the honor as the city's top police officer.
Drewery’s wife, Michele, said she’s both proud and quite ecstatic her husband received the honor as the city’s top firefighter.
At the same time, she made clear she wasn’t surprised, saying, “He’s a very brilliant man.”
At the start of Thursday’s luncheon, there was a moment of silence in memory of Milton Culpepper, a longtime Lion who died early last month at age 89.
Lions Club President Dr. Bob Cameron told the Telegram that Culpepper had come to kind of head up honoring the firefighter of the year and the police officer of the year.
“For years and years, this was his baby,” Cameron said.