The Burbank Elks honored four people for their outstanding service Wednesday evening, January 8, at the Fifth Annual Community Service Awards. City Employee of the Year Kreigh Hampel, Police Officer of the Year Christian Diaz, School Teacher of the Year Jill Tobin and Firefighter of the Year Eric Rowley were all recognized for their dedication and commitment to Burbank.
Officer Christian Diaz, who’s been with the Burbank Police Department for four years as a patrol officer, graduated Burbank High School in 2005. He joined the Burbank Cadet program at age 20 in 2008. He also graduated from Marine Corps Officer Candidate School. In 2009 he was hired by BPD as a patrol officer, after graduating as the number one academic recruit in his class at the LASD Academy. Currently, Diaz is a Field Training Officer, so every six months he trains an officer for work in the field.
“I work hard every day. I graduated from Burbank High and still have family that live here and that motivates me to work hard to protect them and the people in this city,” commented Diaz. “It really was a surprise to be named Officer of the Year. Everyone else works hard in the department, and has been so helpful to me since the beginning, so to be recognized like this is a big surprise.”
“Officer Diaz’ dedication, integrity and strong work ethic are qualities that exemplify the high standards that we are looking for in our officers,” Police Chief Scott LaChasse stated. “Officer Diaz represents the police department in a positive manner while partnering with the community during his daily assignments in patrol. As a Field Training Officer, Officer Diaz remains focused on achieving the goals and objectives of his supervisors while mentoring our new officers in training.”
Diaz has been very instrumental in reducing the number of DUI crashes in the city, as he has worked tirelessly to make DUI arrests before accidents could occur, according to Sgt. Darin Ryburn, Burbank Police Department Public Information Officer. Last year, he made 58 felony arrests and 52 DUI arrests.
In addition to Chief LaChasse, members of the BPD Command Staff attended the dinner, including Deputy Chief Tom Angel, Patrol Capt. Michael Albanese, Investigations Capt. Denis Cremins, Support Services Capt. Ron Caruso and Police Administrator Josephine Wilson. Lt. Jay Hawver, Sgt. Ryburn, Det. Peter Erich and Officer Todd Burns of the Burbank Police Officers’ Association were also present.
Firefighter Eric Rowley, BFD Firefighter of the Year for 2014, has worked for the department for nine years. After taking a Fire Cadet course through Ventura County Fire Department his senior year of high school in 2001, he found his path. He worked for Beverly Hills Fire Department right after high school and then was then hired by the Burbank Fire Department in 2005.
“I greatly appreciate being named Firefighter of the Year. I take on a lot of technical aspects for the department and it’s good to be recognized for my contributions,” Rowley commented in an interview before the awards ceremony. He talked about some of the recent and upcoming technology projects putting Burbank Fire Department on the leading edge of firefighting in the 21st century.
Rowley’s latest project for the Fire Department deployed 25 iPads to each engine, truck and ambulance for patient care reports. His next project over the coming year is the introduction of FireHouse Mobile software on each rig that will allow the firefighters to get information more quickly on businesses and properties in the field.
“Firefighters will be able to access records and pre-plan information on how to better strategically manage resources and get into buildings,” explained Rowley. “We have all this valuable information and need to get it on site to use right away.”
“Firefighter Eric Rowley has demonstrated a high level of dedication to our organization throughout his career. His firefighting skills, technological expertise and willingness to take on various projects make him a valuable asset to our department,” Fire Chief Tom Lenahan said in his speech at the dinner. “In addition to his technological expertise, Firefighter Rowley maintains his skills as a solid Firefighter and Hazardous Materials Specialist taking an active role in training the probationary firefighters assigned to Station 12.”
Rowley’s wife Tara and mother and father, Debra and Capt. Brian Rowley, also attended the awards dinner. Reached for comment before the dinner, Capt. Rowley said with audible emotion in his voice, “I get choked up but I’m just so proud of him. He is everything you could ask for in a son. He’s always there for everybody and he’s always been this way. He has always tried to do the right thing.”
Capt. Rowley, retired from BFD for one year, also mentioned that Firefighter Rowley’s grandfather and uncles were firefighters. “We thought he was going to be a computer programmer when he was in school,” Capt. Rowley added. “After one week at his Fire Cadet course in high school, he came home and told us he thought he wanted to be a firefighter.”
“Being able to work with my son for six to seven years on a professional level was really incredible,” Capt. Rowley also mentioned. “Eric loves his work and goes above and beyond to do his most for the department. He spends his time off working on tech projects for the department.”
Teacher of the Year for 2013-14, Jill Tobin teaches 9th grade Honors Biology and Earth Science and 10th grade Biology at Burroughs High. She was first selected by her peers at Burroughs and after interviews was chosen to represent BUSD. After writing nine essays for the L.A. County level of the competition, she was picked as the County’s Teacher of the Year and finished as a semi-finalist in the State competition. The mother of Lola, a 3 1/2 year old girl and Harlo, a 8 1/2-month-old boy, Tobin is in her tenth year of teaching at Burroughs.
“Burbank is an amazing city and I look forward to raising my family in Burbank. It is completely humbling to be put in the spotlight as one of the educators in this district, ” commented Tobin. “There are so many incredible teachers that I look up to in the community, and to be able to represent them and all of Burbank’s fine teachers is an amazing honor.”
“I became a science teacher because I have always been fascinated with how the world works, and I’ve always enjoyed sharing my fascination of all things science with others. The best compliment I’ve ever received from a student was a few years ago when a student wrote me a letter and said, ‘Thanks for making me wonder about things.’ For me, there is no greater contribution to education; there is no nobler accomplishment than to make your students wonder about things,” Tobin added. “This feeling of wonderment, and the need to share that feeling, is what drew me to education in the first place. For me, there is no greater feeling. And knowing that I am able to give that feeling to others… well, I honestly don’t think I could be happier doing any other job in the entire world.”
“Out of 75,000 eligible educators, John Burroughs High School teacher Jill Tobin stands out among the 16 chosen as Los Angeles County Teachers of the Year, ” Burbank Unified Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz said at the awards dinner. “Her principal, Mr. Paramo, states that Jill is the kind of teacher that a student gets once in a lifetime. Jill has certainly made a significant impact on the teaching staff at Burroughs. She is equally adored and respected by both parents and students.”
Recycling Coordinator Kreigh Hampel was selected by City Manager Mark Scott as City Employee of the Year and introduced at the event by Bonnie Teaford, Public Works Supervisor. He’s been with the Public Works Department for over 10 years and is known for his omni-presence at events throughout the community and his continued efforts towards the City’s zero waste goal. He is one of the founder’s of Bike Angels and gives annual seminars for Leadership Burbank.
“He has a deep understanding of sustainability issues and what individuals can do to make their impact on the world less harmful,” Teaford mentioned in a pre-award interview. “He’s a terrific example of a public servant who gives and gives. He’s at every event in the City and will talk to anyone and answer any question. And, he is such a humble person, too.”
“It’s an honor and it’s humbling to be recognized. I could turn any direction and point to so many other people doing so much more,” commented Hampel. “It’s a privilege to work for the City – I love the people, the challenges of the recycling office and working with the community. Because I think like a biologist and farmer, I appreciate regenerative designs that balance living systems and industrial appetites. My motto is plant more and manufacture less.”
The program followed a cocktail reception and a roast beef dinner prepared by Burroughs High School graduate Chef Jim Ewart and served by Boy Scout Troop 210. Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy made the opening remarks and guest speaker Rebecca Mieliwocki, the National School Teacher of the Year in 2012 and Luther Middle School English teacher, entertained the audience with tales of meeting the President of the United States Barack Obama and her experiences as National Teacher of the Year.
Mieliwocki traveled to nine countries and 30 states as a representative and spokesperson for America’s 3.2 million public school teachers and gave speeches, guest taught and toured teacher prep programs.
“The U.S. and their education system remains the envy of the world. Everyone is amazed at how much we accomplish with all of our kids, how creative, communicative, collaborative and engaged our students are and how much they go off and do once they leave us,” Mieliwocki stated when reached for comment after the awards event. “We have much to celebrate and be proud of and I was honored to get to share that with the audience at the Elks Community Service Awards.”
Certificates were presented by Elks Lodge #1497 Co-Chairman Ken Pajan and the awards were given out by Co-Chairman Harvey Ryun. Elks’ Exalted Ruler and retired Burbank Fire Capt. Bob Ramsay made the flag presentation.
Special guests at the event included City Council members Dr. David Gordon, Bob Frutos and Jess Talamantes, BUSD School Board members Dave Kemp and Charlene Tabet and representatives from L.A. County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s offices. Elks Lodge officers and members, family of the honorees and members of the community also attended.