Mineral County deputies honored with Summit Award
By Ronda Wertman
FORT ASHBY - In a night to honor Mineral County’s best and brightest, the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce began with the county’s often unsung heroes as members paid tribute to law enforcement and first responders.
“I like to start with law enforcement and first responders. They deserve a great deal of respect and appreciation,” said Chamber of Commerce president Randy Crane.
“We are blessed to have some of these fine folks here with us tonight and I’d like to show how much we appreciate them and their coworkers,” said Crane of “those who protect us all, getting in harm’s way and keeping us safe.”
Each year, Luke McKenzie, director of Mineral County Emergency Services, recognizes one member of the community for outstanding volunteer service with the Harry Alt Award.
Alt was a past chief and member of Keyser Volunteer Fire Department, past president of the Cumberland Valley Fireman’s Association, West Virginia State Fire Association, and Mineral County Fireman’s Association.
A beloved educator in Mineral County Schools, he was also a devoted instructor with the West Virginia Fire Service and a West Virginia forest fire warden.
Recognized with the award this year was JJ Wingler, who was nominated by Scott Huffman of the West Virginia State Police.
A captain with the Mineral County Sheriff’s Department, Wingler has been a deputy for 20 years. He also serves the community as a paramedic with the Fountain Volunteer Fire Company and has taken an active leadership role during the coronavirus pandemic with the COVID-19 Crisis Committee.
Mineral County sheriff Jeremy Taylor, who is completing his eighth year as sheriff, praised the heroic acts of his department saying, ““We’re very proud of our department.”
“We’ve come a long way,” he said, noting that when he started as a deputy there were four officers, now there’s 20.
Three deputies Tyler Biggs, Jonathan Hotchkiss and Ryan Morgan, earned special recognition as the 2020 Law Enforcement Officers of the Year.
Taylor recalled how on Oct. 14, the three officers responded to two suspicious male subjects in the area of Vernon Street in Keyser.
One of the subjects had an active warrant and during the interaction with officers, a handgun was pulled on the officers and shots were fired. As the officers took cover, Biggs was able to wound the shooter and he was apprehended and first aid rendered.
“The quick action of the three is what kept them alive and uninjured,” said Taylor as they received their Summit Awards.