A police officer known for getting drunken drivers off the roadways and a police investigator who handles crimes against children have been named the top two Denton officers of the year.
Corey Padget, a patrol officer for five years, was named the Patrol Officer of the Year at the 16th annual Denton Police Department Appreciation Banquet on Thursday at the University of North Texas Gateway Center.
Padget is considered one of the top DWI enforcement officers in the department, officials said.
Officer Virginia Nichols, who has served for 10 years as an investigator assigned to the crimes against children unit, was named the Special Assignment Officer of the Year. Nichols is also vice president of the Denton Police Officers Association.
Nichols and Padget received rings from Josten’s as the two highest award recipients of the evening.
Four other department awards were presented: Lt. Bobby Smith, Supervisor of the Year; Deiva McCarthy, Communications Officer of the Year; Mari Herrera, Civilian Employee of the Year; and George Wood, Volunteer of the Year.
In addition, Lt. Chris Summitt and Chief Lee Howell presented a life-saving award to Sgt. Vernell Dooley, above and beyond the call of duty awards to Officer Lucas Bailey and Officer Samy Sanchez and commendation bars to Officer Tony Fletcher and Officer Jason Hollingshead.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of a $10,000 check from the 100 Club of Denton, a nonprofit organization of area businesses and residents that supports Denton police officers. The check will help in the completion of the new Denton Public Safety Training Center.
Jayne Howell, president of the 100 Club and the wife of the police chief, said the donation will help the police department add special features to the new training center that could not be funded with the existing budget.
“This is our largest donation given in one year,” Jayne Howell said at the ceremony. “The center will be widely used across the region and we wanted to make sure it was finished the way it should be.”
Hank Dickenson, UNT deputy athletic director, was the emcee of the event. The guest speaker was UNT President Neal Smatresk.
The nomination process for the awards starts with peer voting within the police department and then winners are ultimately decided by a board of directors, officials said.
Lee Howell told the crowd that no matter if it’s a shooting or helping someone with a flat tire on the side of the road, the officers working to serve and protect “are heroes every day.”
“I am very honored,” Nichols said after receiving her award. “To be recognized by your fellow officers — there’s no higher honor than that.”
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.