The Bulloch County Public Servant of the Year sponsors and selection committee bestowed two Meritorious Service Awards during last week’s banquet: one posthumously in honor of Terry Harville, nominated by the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office, and one to Ricky Hutchinson, nominated by the Bulloch County Fire Department.
These were top honors in addition to the 2022 Officer of the Year Award, which as previously reported was presented to Officer Katie Hodges of the Georgia Southern University Police. Harville, Hutchison, Hodges and eight other public safety professionals were nominated by 11 different agencies. More than 150 people attended the banquet Thursday evening, Nov. 17.
Sheriff Noel Brown acknowledged that his voice was cracking with emotion as he talked to the crowd about Terry Harville, who had worked at the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years, her most recent job title being warrants clerk.
“At the end of the day, Terry was the type of person that, she didn’t answer by saying, ‘This is not my job,’ she answered by, ‘How can I help you?’ and tried to find that answer,” Brown said.
Harville, 57, died in her sleep Aug. 31 while in Savannah for a Georgia Sheriff’s Association conference. Family members said they had learned just two weeks before that she had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation.
She started at the Sheriff’s Office in 1994 as a jailer, but within a few years worked her way into the administrative division of the department. Over the years, she dealt with “every aspect of what a sheriff’s office is all about,” Brown said.
Naming the Statesboro, Brooklet, Portal and Georgia Southern police departments, the Department of Community Supervision, GBI, State Patrol, and Emergency Medical Service, he noted that Harville had assisted all of these and other agencies so that nearly everyone at the banquet knew her.
“She understood the office of the sheriff, but she cared about all of you, not just the ones in that office,” Brown said. “She cared about every one of you, and she didn’t ever want to bring a black cloud or a black eye on that office.”
Beyond her daily duties, Harville helped with many fundraisers, not only those that BCSO employees regularly support that benefit Alzheimer’s disease patients, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes and Ogeechee Area Hospice, but also specific calls to help sick or injured children, for example, the sheriff said.
He noted that Kim Billings of the Safe Haven domestic violence shelter had praised Harville for providing timely and accurate information and notifying advocates about incidents of domestic abuse.
“Billings stated Terry had most likely saved the lives of hundreds of victims of domestic violence over the years,” Brown wrote in the nomination narrative.
Harville had also supported Safe Haven through its annual Dancing with the Statesboro Stars event. Participating as a dancer, she garnered the Team Player Award and Fundraising Award. She was a past recipient of a Deen Day Smith Service to Mankind Award in the community service recognition program long hosted by the Statesboro Herald.
Capt. Sheryl Hagan, the Sheriff’s Office’s executive assistant and longest-serving employee, also spoke of Harville during the Meritorious Service presentation.
“She came to work as a coworker, but when she left, she was one of the best friends I ever had in my life,” Hagan said. “We do love her; we do miss her. … Her smile and her heart were the biggest things about her.”
Two of Harville’s sisters, Christie Black and Lynn Bunch, interviewed at the banquet’s conclusion, said the award was a fitting tribute.
“Terry loved doing for others. That was what she lived for,” Black said.
Bulloch County Fire Chief Ben Tapley nominated now-retired Capt. Ricky Hutchinson for his Meritorious Service Award. Hutchinson served 43½ years as a volunteer firefighter, also participating in rescue operations, for the Statesboro and Bulloch County fire departments, all while owning and operating his business, All Star Carpet Care & Restoration.
“Throughout the years Ricky has done anything and everything that has been asked of him. No matter how much time it took, what he was doing, how much money it would cost him, he did what was right for the citizens of Bulloch County,” Tapley said. “So, when he came into my office not long ago and said to me that he needed to retire, it was an emotional time for both of us.”
Tapley, who is new in the role of chief at the BCFD, first met Hutchinson in 1993, and they’ve been fighting fires together ever since. Over time, the now-chief came to appreciate Hutchinson as a mentor who would let his expectations be known.
“He is genuinely a beautiful person, even though we didn’t always get along. OK?” Tapley said, and someone in the crowd responded with ‘Amen.’ “But I know he did what was best for our community and the Fire Department.”
Hutchinson started as a volunteer firefighter with what was then the Statesboro-Bulloch County Fire Department in June 1979. As the county department developed as a separate agency, he continued as a volunteer, receiving a per-incident stipend, for both departments. He retired from the Statesboro Fire Department, still a volunteer but with the rank of captain, four years ago.
Continuing with the Bulloch County Fire Department, he remained assigned to Station 2, at Portal, nearest his home, but became captain of the volunteers with countywide responsibilities. Hutchinson had often responded to calls all over the county, surprising other responders with how fast he could arrive.
“He brought experience that many may never know,” Tapley wrote. “He has seen more fire and fought more kitchen fires with garden hoses than most people in career departments do in their entire career.”
In an interview this week, Hutchinson confirmed that he on several occasions arrived in his personal vehicle and extinguished a fire before the actual fire trucks arrived.
“And if there was a hose available, I would make an attack with a garden hose, if it wasn’t too large of a fire,” he said. “I put out several kitchen fires or small fires with a garden hose before the engine got there.”
At other times in past years, before the BCFD began to employ some full-time firefighters, Hutchinson was the one to drive the fire engine out from the station.
Asked how he managed to do all this while maintaining a business, he credited his employees.
“It was a commitment, and I tried to do the best I could with it, but on my work side I was blessed to have good employees to where I was able to leave and go to fire and rescue calls,” Hutchinson said.
He retired effective Sept. 12. Now 62, he wants to have “more time to spend with family and more time to serve God, not that I wasn’t serving him by being a firefighter, but I just felt as though it was time to move on,” he said. “It’s a young man’s job.”
Hutchinson and his wife, Lisa, have three sons and three grandchildren. One of their sons, Rabon Hutchinson, serves full-time as a Statesboro Fire Department captain and also assists the county department.
All 11 agencies’ Public Servant Award nominees received plaques, praise and applause during the banquet.
Emergency Medical Technician Lloyd Shurling was nominated from the Bulloch County EMS; Special Agent Trevin Goodman from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Statesboro Office; Master Trooper Chris Cuddington from Georgia State Patrol Post 45; Firefighter Nick Hunt from the Statesboro Fire Department; Sgt. Eric Simms from the Statesboro Police Department; Operator Kerri Borgman from Bulloch County 911; Detective Brandy Hewett from the Brooklet Police Department; and Nurse Stacey Tapley from Air Evac Lifeteam 95.