Firefighters, police honored

They rush into burning buildings without a moment's hesitation.

They arrest criminals and keep Catawba County's streets safe.

But it's all part of the job for four of Newton's finest police officers and firefighters, who were honored recently for their commitment to service.

Firefighters Scott Mecimore, 37, of Newton, and Dustin Ladd, 25, of Catawba, received top honors from two area organizations for their commitment to fire service and emergency response.

Newton Fire Chief Kevin Yoder commended Ladd and Mecimore for their hard work and dedication at the Newton Fire Department.

"When you have folks that are always giving above and beyond, it makes the job easier," Yoder said. "They love the job they do, and it shows."

Mecimore, a fire engineer, was honored by American Legion Post 16 in January. Mecimore received the award because he obtained 600 hours of training last year, which is five times more than the amount required.

He was also one of the department's top call-back responders to structure fires and fire alarms.

Mecimore started working with the Newton Fire Department 10 years ago, and 2011 marks his 21st year in fire service.

"It's giving back to the community," Mecimore said. "That's what I like so much about the job."

Ladd received the Firefighter of the Year award, presented Feb. 5 by the Newton Elks Lodge. Newton firefighters voted on the award, and they selected Ladd to be the city's Firefighter of the Year.

"I was surprised and thankful that the firefighters voted for me," Ladd said. "For me, it was an honor."

Ladd started working for Newton Fire Department in March 2008. This is his eighth year in the fire service, and he also serves at Bandys Crossroads Fire Department.

"I really wanted to help the community and serve people," Ladd said of his choice to become a firefighter.

Newton's top police officers were also honored recently with similar awards from the Newton Elks Lodge and American Legion Post 16. Sgt. Nicole Lineberger, 39, of Hickory, and Officer Tou Ber Yang, 29, of Conover, received top awards for Newton Police Department.

"It's tough to select an officer of the year when you've got so many officers to select from," said Newton Police Chief Don Brown, adding that the department's officers, not its administration, selected both award winners. "... Both officers go above and beyond of what's asked of them. They just do an outstanding job within the community."

Lineberger was honored for her service by American Legion Post 16. The night before the award banquet, she worked night shift. So, when she accepted her award, she was operating on about four hours of sleep.

Lineberger is a shift supervisor, and she was coaxed into coming to the award reception because she thought, as a supervisor, she was required to attend. Little did she know that she was being honored.

"I was in total shock at the beginning when they called my name," Lineberger said. "I don't think it hit me until I left (the award reception)."

Lineberger has worked with Newton Police Department for five years, and she also works as a part-time deputy with the Catawba County Sheriff's Office.

"It can be a thankless job," she said. "... We get to help people.

We're counselors. We're mediators. We never know what's next."

Yang was selected as the Newton Elks Lodge's Police Office of the Year.

"I was really surprised," Yang said of his selection. "When they called my name, I was like, 'Wow.' I didn't expect it at all."

Yang spent four years in the Navy before becoming a police officer. He has worked at Newton Police Department for about 18 months.

"Our first duty is to help our citizens," Yang said. "That's our first priority right there."

Yang works on road patrol within the city, where he responds to various calls for service and assists with traffic control.

"Meeting different types of people all the time — it's always something different," Yang said. "You never know what's going to happen in the next hour."