Sheriff Clay Chism received an award named for one of Callaway County's most famed sheriffs Wednesday.
He is the 21st recipient of the Fulton Rotary Club's G.W. Law Award, an annual honor recognizing a law enforcement officer for embodying the Rotary ideal of "service above self."
Chism said it's rare to catch him speechless, but Wednesday's announcement did the trick.
"What an honor," he said. "Nineteen years of giving assistance to this county has been nothing but an honor. We in law enforcement can't do what we do without community support."
Callaway County Ambulance District Director Charles Anderson presented the award and also nominated Chism.
"In addition to performing his job at the highest level, he goes above and beyond in service to the community," Anderson wrote in his nomination letter.
Anderson said the two grew up together in Auxvasse, and Chism always aspired to be a law enforcement officer. He even worked as an unpaid intern for the Callaway County Sheriff's Office for a time before being hired as a road deputy and working his way up through the ranks to be the lieutenant of the investigative division.
When former Sheriff Dennis Crane announced his retirement in 2016, Chism filed to run for the office.
"The race was not unopposed, but Clay's dedication led him to victory," Anderson wrote.
He cited Chism's updating outdated equipment and introducing K-9 units and advanced evidence processing as some of his successes as sheriff. Despite Chism's business, he can still be found patrolling the county's roads and interacting with the public, Anderson noted.
"I do not believe in the history of this award you'll find an officer more deserving," Anderson added.
Chism thanked his wife, Jennifer, and his parents for supporting him in his career.
"I know living with a sheriff isn't the easiest task in the world," he said.
Other nominees this year included Callaway County Deputy John Nielsen, Missouri Highway Patrol Troop F Trooper Nolan Bax and Callaway County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kevin Foley.
"I know each of these men personally, and I can say the other nominees were just as deserving of this as I am," Chism said.
Nielsen was nominated by Lt. Curtis Hall, who wrote that in Nielsen's 2.5 years with the department, he's successfully trained six deputies. Being a field training officer is one of the toughest jobs in the department, Hall said. In just four months, Nielsen must mold a green graduate into a road-ready deputy.
"Numerous times, I've seen him working til 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. with a deputy he's training," Hall said. "Then he's back hours later for another 12-hour shift."
Bax was nominated by Capt. Corey Schoenenberg, of Troop F. Schoenenberg said Bax led Zone 8 (which includes Callaway County) in total arrests, DWI arrests and drug arrests. One of Bax's notable recent accomplishments was the seizure of 1 pound of marijuana and 1.5 pounds of marijuana products Aug. 13.
Lt. Matthew Palmer nominated Foley. Foley is the sheriff's office investigative division's supervisor and frequently tackles emotionally challenging cases — including sex offense cases involving children. Foley has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years.
"Because of his hard work, several people are in prison and can no longer hurt anybody," Palmer wrote. "Their combined jail time measures in decades. It empowers victims of the cases to move on with life, knowing that someone believed in them."
Founded in 1998, the G.W. Law Award is named for George W. Law, a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate Army who was elected sheriff of Callaway County in 1872. He was killed in the line of duty Aug. 15, 1873, when he was attacked by a mob while transporting a convicted thief to a train station.
"To this day, he is an example law enforcement members strive to follow," Anderson said. "When these men and their brothers and sisters report for duty, they know they may be called to lay down their lives."
Wednesday's ceremony at The Copper Mine also included a time of remembrance for the many first responders who lost their lives during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. As Anderson noted, about 2,000 first responders have subsequently died of diseases linked to exposure to toxins following those attacks.
"To them, service above self was their way of life," Anderson said. "They were not looking for recognition, just to make a difference."