Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus has announced the recipients of the 2021 Meritorious Service Awards in the following service categories: Public Health, Law Enforcement, Military, Fire and Emergency.
“The Health Department mobilized in response to the pandemic in early March 2020 and has really worked tirelessly since then, collaborating with my office and the County’s Emergency Services Department in mitigation efforts,” Neuhaus said. “I commend them for their commitment to the health and safety of our residents, dedication to helping bolster testing and vaccinations, and their ability to work seamlessly with the hospitals, healthcare facilities and agencies throughout the County. We may face more COVID-19 related challenges in the future, but I know that the Health Department will continue to work passionately, efficiently and effectively for our county.”
Members of the County’s Health Department were recognized for their ongoing efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Neuhaus thanked the Health Department for their diligence during the public health emergency, specifically commending Health Commissioner Dr. Irina Gelman, Deputy Commissioner Chris Ericson, Deputy Commissioner Mike Ventre, Emergency Preparedness and Response Coordinator Kathy Barnett, Epidemiologist Jacqueline Lawler, Director of Patient Services Heather Boss, Assistant County Attorney for the Health Department Lisa Lahiff, Director of Health Equity Barbara Clifford, Public Health Technician Dayquan Crandell and Call Center Coordinator Danielle Moser.
“In the face of a variety of obstacles, the Health Department showed determination, grit and commitment to protecting the public health, and the well-being of County residents,” Dr. Gelman said. “The local response to this global coronavirus pandemic would not be possible without the dedication and sacrifice of all of our staff, contractors and volunteers.”
Other Meritorious Service Award recipients included were:
Goshen Fire Department
Goshen Fire Department Captain David Collado, Lieutenant John Jonas and Firefighter Rory Pettus collaborated to rescue an unconscious man in an underground storage tank on October 19, 2019, on Greenwich Avenue in Goshen.
Pettus entered the tank through a manhole and provided the victim critical breathing air via a rescue SCBA pack.
Collado enlarged the opening of the tank for the rescue and Jonas assisted Pettus in extracting the victim, who was rushed to a local hospital and survived.
New York State Police Trooper Daniel J. Kokulak
Trooper Kokulak has served with distinction since joining the State Police in March of 2016. Working out of Troop F in Monroe, between August 2019 and July 2020 Kokulak made 53 felony arrests, 117 misdemeanor arrests and 50 violation arrests. Many of those arrests involved large amounts of serious drugs, including cocaine, heroin, and Oxycodone. Kokulak also removed 27 impaired drivers from Orange County roadways, issued 361 Uniform Traffic Tickets and investigated 344 calls for service.
Hudson Valley Crime Analysis Center Investigator Kelsey McDonough
McDonough, an Investigator with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, has assisted in thousands of case investigations, and her hard work and effort help to make Orange County a safer place to live.
Some of McDonough’s recent highlights include assisting the Town of New Windsor with a homicide investigation in September 2019, and in January 2020, McDonough worked with the State Police to arrest a suspect who committed armed robbery in Kiryas Joel.
Five months later, she collaborated with law enforcement agencies to arrest a suspect involved in a shootout with the New York Police Department (NYPD).
McDonough is also credited with assisting the Village of Washingtonville PD with the apprehension of the suspects who defaced the Village with graffiti and destroyed the 9/11 Memorial Flagpole.
Investigator Angel Mendoza, Orange County Sheriff’s Office
In 2018, Investigator Mendoza was assigned to an allegations of sexual abuse case. The suspect had been under investigation for numerous sex crimes dating back to 2012. Mendoza’s interviews of the victims and further investigation revealed enough evidence for a search warrant to be issued on November 2, 2018. During the execution of the search warrant, many electronic devices were seized, and analysis of the devices resulted in evidence supporting the victims’ statements. The suspect was arrested and charged with Predatory Sexual Assault of a Child. On July 15, 2021, the suspect pled guilty and will serve a sentence in State Prison.
Lt. Col. Lewis DeMaso
While commuting to work on the morning of October 21, 2020, DeMaso, Commander of the Air National Guard 105th Operations Support Squadron, was involved in a severe multi-vehicle accident when a commercial tree service truck hit a Washingtonville school bus and DeMaso’s own vehicle. Upon impact, his vehicle was thrown across the road into the guardrail.
Upon exiting his vehicle, DeMaso called 911 while rushing to the bus to assist the eight children and one driver onboard. He gathered seven of the students and tried to keep them calm by moving them to a driveway away from the scene.
He then solicited the assistance of the resident of that home, who stayed with the children while DeMaso returned to the driver and one student who were unable to be safely removed until emergency services had arrived.
Mary Pat Smith, Assistant to Orange County Executive
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith has provided County Executive Neuhaus with a variety of information for his popular COVID-19 video updates on Facebook. Smith worked diligently with the County’s hospitals and other stakeholders in gathering this important information. She was also an integral part of the Points of Distribution (PODs) for the COVID-19 vaccinations held at Hatfield Lane.
“The men and women who commit their lives to public service in this capacity don’t do it for awards or accolades which makes it even more of an honor to recognize their exemplary service,” Neuhaus said. “Our first responders deserve to be appreciated and commended for making Orange County a safer place to live and work, especially after the challenging year that we have all faced.”