2013 Deputy of the Year honored for work to keep teen drivers safe

Deputy Dan Nelson of Walworth (center) was recognized by Walworth County Sheriff David Graves (right) and Undersheriff Kurt Picknell as Deputy of the Year during the sheriff’s annual awards ceremony May 16. (Vanessa Lenz photo)

By Vanessa Lenz

SLN Staff

After working quietly behind the scenes for the past two years on a project he’s passionate about, a Walworth County Sheriff’s Deputy finally got a moment in the spotlight.

Deputy Dan Nelson was honored as the 2013 Deputy of the Year at the Walworth County Sheriff’s Office annual awards ceremony May 16. The event, held at the Health and Human Services auditorium in Elkhorn, coincided with National Police Week.

The Walworth resident was recognized for helping to launch Operation Click’s first venture into Wisconsin.

“Dan was already very involved in child vehicle safety, child advocacy and protection services through his involvement with the Sheriff’s Office community policing initiatives and believed this program was a natural and worthwhile extension,” Sheriff David Graves said.

Operation Click was designed to create safer teen drivers using education, positive reinforcement and rewards.

The program, which has 14 successful years in northern Illinois high schools under its belt, looks like it will continue for the long haul in the area.

This year’s number of participating area high schools increased from seven to eight, including East Troy, Badger, Big Foot, Catholic Central of Burlington, Delavan-Darien, Elkhorn Area, Whitewater and Williams Bay.

For following a list of safe driving rules throughout the school year, students received perks such as free music downloads and VIP parking.

“To be eligible to win major prizes, students must adhere to a signed contract, which states they will wear their seatbelts at all times, they will not drink and drive, they will not ride in a car with a driver who had consumed alcohol and they will not be convicted of any traffic related violation,” Graves said.

Schools with a compliance rate over 95 percent at a final seatbelt check this spring got to pick one student to be eligible to win a new car, donated by Kunes Country Auto Group.

Brooke Trewyn, a junior at Whitewater High School, had the magic touch on April 26 as she picked the right key to start her shiny 2007 Chevy Cobalt during this year’s Operation Click Finale banquet at Lake Lawn Resort.

“Dan worked tirelessly to secure sponsors and donations and received tremendous support, to include donation of the grand prize car,” Graves said.

He said Operation Click is working.

“The initial survey showed that at the beginning (of the 2011-12 school year), 78 percent of the high school students were wearing their seatbelts,” Graves explained. “By the end of the first year, seatbelt compliance was up to 95 percent.”

According to this year’s results, Walworth County Chapter schools had a 97.3 percent seatbelt compliance rate. The rate exceeds Wisconsin’s rate of about 80 percent.

“I like to think that if the students are getting the message about the importance of wearing their seatbelts, they are also getting the message of the dangers of distracted driving and drinking and driving,” said Nelson who coordinates the program for the Walworth County Sheriff’ s Office. “To have our high school drivers wearing their seatbelt at a rate almost 30 percent higher than the state average is amazing.”

Today, students from 31 high schools make up five Operation Click chapters in Illinois, along with the high schools in the Walworth County Chapter that was organized in 2011.

Graves said plans are in the works to start up four more chapters, one in Park Ridge, Ill. and three in Brown, Dane and Grant counties in Wisconsin.

“Dan spends countless hours working other community service programs, donating his time for the betterment of children of Walworth County,” Graves added. “He continues to present child safety seat installation clinics, secured a $4,000 grand to acquire safety seats for low income families and he serves on the Board of Directors of the Walworth County Alliance for Children, which just opened its child advocacy center known as the Tree House of Walworth County.”

Nelson, nominated by Deputy Jason Rowland, was one of 33 honored with awards that were selected by peers.

Other award winners included:

 

Meritorious Service Award

Capt. Scott McClory of Elkhorn, Deputy Jerry Post of Whitewater, Jail Administrator John Delaney of Janesville, Jail Superintendent Howie Sawyers of Elkhorn, Jail Superintendent Steve Sax of Elkhorn, Sgt. Robert Duffey of Muskego and Correctional Officers Chris Bannigan of Delavan, Cleo Renner of Lake Geneva, Jim Henriott of Elkhorn, Bill Mann of Lake Geneva, Dan Klawien of East Troy and Heather Martin of Elkhorn

 

Meritorious Service with Valor Award

Deputy Richard Lagle of Elkhorn

 

Distinguished Service Award

Deputies Rhan Smith of Elkhorn and Dan Nelson of Walworth

 

Distinguished Service Award

Tom Hausner of Fontana

 

Life Saving Award

Correctional Officer Cleo Renner of Lake Geneva and Deputy Dan Nichols of East Troy

 

Deputy Dan Nichols of East Troy

 

Deputy Dan Long of Walworth and Deputy Bill Mortlock of Delavan

 

Correctional Officer Chuck Carlson of Whitewater

 

Deputy Edgar Resendez of Walworth

 

Public Service Award

Lyle Eichman of Darien

 

Scott and Macy Dreger of Elkhorn

 

Yecenia Perez-Huerta of Elkhorn

 

CPR Store of Delavan and Steve Loewe of Darien

 

Gary Rowland of Whitewater

 

Lisa Loepke of Delavan

 

Correctional Officer of the Year

Eric Pelky of Oak Creek

 

Civilian Employee of the Year

Vicki Runnells of Elkhorn

 

 

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