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By Shawn Raymundo
The Exchange Club of San Clemente’s annual award ceremony to honor the Sheriff Deputy of the Year and Firefighter of the Year is a time-honored tradition dating back nearly 30 years.
But due to the latest restrictions from COVID-19, the club was forced to recognize Deputy Juan Lara and Engineer Josh Hansink as this year’s recipients without all the pomp and circumstance that normally goes into the annual luncheon.
In a smaller-than-usual ceremony witnessed by family members and a handful of deputies and firefighters, the Exchange Club recognized Lara as Sheriff Deputy of the Year and Hansink as Firefighter of the Year at Bella Collina San Clemente on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Larry Rannals, president of the Exchange Club, delivered the welcoming remarks, stating that Lara and Hansink “represent the ‘best of the best’ in their chosen career fields” and that the club “could not be more proud to host this event for that purpose.”
Touching on a year that has seen nationwide social unrest over racial inequality, as well as protests against stay-at-home orders, Rannals went on to also state that he believes no other awards have been as important as this year’s,
“I believe none has been, or is more important than this year—due to the degree of verbal abuse, disrespect, and ill treatment our nation’s law enforcement and first responders have endured around the country these past nine months,” Rannals said in prepared remarks shared with the San Clemente Times.
According to the club, Lara and Hansink heard presentations from some of their commanding officers and superiors, praising them for their work, and also received commendations on behalf of Congressman Mike Levin, State Sen. Patricia Bates, Assemblymember Bill Brough and the city of San Clemente.
Initially, the event was slated to have about 60 attendees, as well as members of the press. However, following the state’s move early last week to place Orange County back into the purple “widespread” tier—the most restrictive level on the coronavirus monitoring system—the club opted to go with a smaller ceremony involving roughly 20 individuals.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.