Officers, firefighters honored for exceeding their job description

For most law enforcement and firefighters, there is no ordinary day. But five in Midland County have shown what they’re made of at very unusual times.

Five of those men were honored on Tuesday at the 55th Annual Carl & Esther Gerstacker 2021 Law Enforcement and Firefighter of the Year Awards Banquet hosted by the Midland Exchange Club at the Midland Country Club.

The event honored Charles Brown and Tyler Hollingsworth of the Midland Police Department, Lt. Marty Doolan of the Midland County Sheriff’s Office, Midland Firefighter Justin Fox and Midland County Firefighter and Township Fire Chief by Jerome Jerry Cole.

There was a moment of silence and an honorary mention from Tim Longlet, a Midland firefighter who was laid to rest earlier on Tuesday. He was remembered as a great firefighter, mentor and friend.

Midland Exchange Club President Danielle Blackhurst said it was her favorite event of the year.

Midland Police Chief Nicole Ford recalled Christmas Eve last night when Constables Charles Brown and Tyler Hollingsworth responded to a domestic argument. During the encounter, the suspect went to a garage and poured gasoline on himself, setting the three men on fire. Brown and Hollingsworth extinguished the flames on themselves and then on the suspect.

“They were both heroic,” Ford said of the officers.

Brown returned to work after recovering from his injuries and Hollingsworth had several surgeries to his left hand.

Ford said it wasn’t the only time officers went above and beyond.

Brown said: “My goal every day is for everyone I work with to come home to their loved ones.”

Hollingsworth, with his bandaged hand, joked that there had to be “slim choices” for the prize because he was out of the department for six months of the year.

He spoke about the safety of Midland, adding that tragedy and critical incidents are avoided with swift action. Often people don’t know what might have happened because it was prevented. Yet he sometimes notes that there is no way to avoid tragedy.

“I learned the strength of the human spirit,” Hollingsworth said.

Midland County Sheriff Myron Greene presented his award to Lt. Marty Doolan.

“We are not successful except for our staff,” said Greene.

He said Doolan has served as a correctional officer, undercover drug detective, accident investigator, Taser instructor and more.

“He was a role model for those under his command,” Greene said.

Doolan said he was “humbled” to have been chosen.

Introducing Midland Firefighter Justin Fox, Midland Fire Chief Chris Coughlin noted that earlier Tuesday they put Longlet, who was one of Fox’s mentors, to rest. Coughlin said Fox joined the department in 2008 and was a “rock solid” firefighter.

“He serves the community tirelessly,” Coughlin said, also deeming Fox compassionate and well respected.

“I can’t say enough about his performance,” added the chef.

Fox asked the audience to take a moment of silence for Longlet.

Fox later said he chose to be a firefighter because he wanted an action job where he could help people.

Lisa Hall, manager of 911, explained how Midland County Firefighter of the Year, Jerome Township Fire Chief Jerry Cole, was still at his post when the dams broke. She said he was still thinking about his new job when the chaos broke out.

“If he was stressed out on the inside, he never showed it on the outside,” Hall said, noting that Cole displayed courage, positivity, commitment and creativity.

After the dam failures, she said she was grateful the leader had not returned her badge. Instead, he was at the forefront in working on the recovery and reconstruction of his hometown.

“I don’t know who this guy is, but I would like to meet him,” Cole joked.

Cole said the award was special to him, saying his father received the same award in 1997 when he was a fire chief.

Midland County Commissioners Council Chairman Mark Bone thanked all officials.

“You are on the front line, you are protecting us,” he said. “I’m proud of you. What you are doing is amazing.

Cole said he was overwhelmed and proud to share the evening with the other recipients. He also noted how important family is in this work.

“No one can do this job without the support of their family,” he said, standing next to his wife, 47, Bethany.

Cole and the other award winners all thanked their wives and loved ones for supporting them. These women were recognized by Sharon Mortensen of the Midland Area Community Foundation, who presented them with checks to support their partners in carrying out important work.

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