Duty, honor, country: These were the themes of the Hickory Elks' Americanism Recognition Ceremony on February 3. Each of these words, a reference to the famed speech by General Douglas MacArthur, encompass the spirit of Hickory's Fire and Police Departments. The Hickory Elks awarded an exceptional member of each department, among other military and student awardees.
Battalion Chief Mike Cates was named the Elk's Exceptional Firefighter of the Year. Cates was nominated for his brave actions on Sunday, July 16, 2017 - a day when Hickory firefighters responded to three fires within a four-hour time span. Even though he was off duty that day, Cates heard the first call and responded to serve as backup Battalion Chief. After battling two structure fires, a third structure fire was reported with an occupant still inside the residence. Cates knew additional resources would be needed and jumped on the responding engine to assist with the reported fire on 14th St SE. Upon entering the structure, Cates and fellow firefighter Alex Smith located the victim in the bathroom towards the rear of the structure and extricated him to safety while E7 extinguished the fire. The victim was located and removed from harm's way, and the fire was extinguished in less than 10 minutes. Battalion Chief Cates' actions that day, when he was scheduled to be off duty, resulted in a life saved. His dedication to the fire service and heroic action to preserve life qualify Cates to be named an Exceptional Firefighter.
"Our department and I are very proud of Mike and thrilled that he has been chosen for this prestigious award. Because of the actions of him and his team, a man is alive," stated Fire Chief Fred Hollar.
Master Police Officer James "Bo" Mathis was chosen by his peers as the Elk's Exceptional Police Officer of the Year for his continued outstanding service to citizens and his fellow department members. Mathis truly exemplifies the departmental core values of Professionalism, Accountability, Compassion, and Teamwork. He uses his experience to often calm situations down and assist other officers. In his peer nomination, Mathis was described with the following statement: "Most reliable police officer, he's always available to provide his assistance and consistently leads in self-initiated activities. MPO Mathis possesses a high level of emotional intelligence and is able and trusted to handle any call." Mathis currently serves as a patrol officer assigned to Baker PACT and as a Field Training Officer, involved in the training and mentoring of newly appointed officers at the department. His exemplary conduct and commitment to serving both the community and his fellow officers qualify Mathis to be
recognized as an Exceptional Police Officer.
"This is an extremely special honor for Officer Mathis because he was nominated and selected by his fellow coworkers for the outstanding work that he does. We are extremely lucky to have him serving in our community as a member of the HPD team," added Police Chief Thurman Whisnant.
The City of Hickory is proud of both Cates and Mathis and congratulates them on receiving this high honor. The City also appreciates the Hickory Elks Lodge and their efforts to recognize those who give of themselves to better the community.