A year of outstanding work by two firefighters in this town didn’t go unnoticed by their colleagues and superiors.
“Dedication” was the word of choice in nomination letters that ultimately led to 2016 Firefighter of the Year honors for Zebulon staff fireman Zack McLeod and volunteer Stephen Perry.
The department’s firefighters annually put forward names and why they think they are deserving of the awards, and ranking members use that input to make selections. They were announced at the fire department’s Christmas party in late December.
“I hear a lot of dedication in these,” Zebulon Chief Chris Perry said while shuffling through the nomination letters last week. “Both of these guys are younger guys and have an incredible level of energy.”
Perry said dedicated would be a good way to summarize McLeod’s involvement at the station.
“He’s very dedicated to service; he does a really good job and is always trying to improve himself and the shift that he works on, and that’s great,” Perry said.
The 25-year-old from the Emit community had plenty of exposure to public service growing up, as the son of a State Trooper and nephew of a Corinth Holders firefighter.
He joined the Corinth Holders department as a volunteer while still in high school at Smithfield-Selma eight years ago, and was hired onto the staff at Zebulon two years ago.
One of the letters nominating McLeod said, “Zack is a very motivated person and is always coming up with ways to make our department better. He is truly passionate about being a firefighter – not just an employee. He does those little extra jobs many people don’t think about doing.”
McLeod said he doesn’t think he deserved the recognition over any of his peers, but that he is humbled and appreciative.
“I just go to work every day and do my job, and sometimes I do a little bit more than my job,” McLeod said. “Apparently it meant something to somebody.”
Stephen Perry, who is not related to the chief, has spent the past year in a couple staff positions, first at the Stony Hill Fire Department and now since at the Wake Forest Fire Department.
When Perry, 22, isn’t working there, he often helps out at the station in his hometown.
One of the letters nominating Perry called attention to his willingness to help in times of need.
“I think what impressed a lot of people was Stephen’s situation in the past year, being hired as a full-time firefighter (in Wake Forest), but he still volunteers here a lot,” Chris Perry said. “He spends a lot of nights staying down here to provide additional staff to the shifts that are working.”
Stephen Perry has been volunteering with Zebulon since the start of 2013.
“It’s really just the passion for the job,” he said. “It’s more than a job for me, it’s a way of life. I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Like others who have earned the recognition, Perry said he wasn’t thinking about any awards when he was putting in the hours.
“It wasn’t something I was really expecting so really it was a shock and I’m privileged to get it, I really am,” Perry said. “A lot of other people deserve it also.”