The St. Petersburg Elks Lodge No. 1224 honored Gulfport’s 2017 Police Officer of the year and other area first responders during their annual Law & Order Night on Saturday, February 24.
The event has been honoring top area law enforcement officers and firefighters along with a state attorney for at least 35 years, said Rudy Masi Sr., event chairperson.
“We want to honor those who serve us and protect us,” said Tom Shriver Jr., the Elks District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler for the Florida West Central District. “It’s the least we can do for them.”
In November 2017, Masi received a lifetime achievement award for his volunteerism from President Donald Trump in the White House.
“I’m very proud of my award pin. I’m wearing it,” said Masi. “But, to me, tonight’s awards to people who put their lives on the line are more rewarding.”
From the Gulfport Police Department, Officer Jessie Kellington was nominated as Officer of the Year by Sergeant Robert Burkhart, his supervisor.
Kellington joined the force 14 years ago and in 2013 was given the opportunity to work with an area undercover narcotics squad, which was an assignment he loved, according to a police department press release. In 2017, due to a staffing shortage in Gulfport, Police Chief Robert Vincent returned him to patrol duties.
The reassignment caused a significant change in Kellington’s personal schedule. In addition, the squad he returned to had an acting supervisor who was a less experienced officer. Before Kellington was assigned to be undercover, he was the squad’s supervisor.
Kellington’s work ethic meant he “stepped up and helped to train the new officers that had been hired to fill vacancies,” said Vincent. “His performance as an instructor, training officer, and just as an all-around example to others is commendable. Where others might express a negative attitude in his situation, Kellington remained positive and showed skills of a true leader.”
From St. Pete Beach Fire Rescue, Chief Jim Kilpatrick presented Terry Perna with their Firefighter of the Year award.
Other agencies honoring law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and a lawyer at the private club’s dinner and awards ceremony included the State Attorney’s Office, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue, and the St. Petersburg Police Department.
For entertainment, officers from the St. Petersburg Police K-9 unit provided a demonstration.