Joe Rodriguez honored as state ‘Officer of the Year.’

July 19, 2017

Lt. Joe Rodriguez of the Shelby-Benona Fire Department.

Joe Rodriguez honored as state ‘Officer of the Year.’


By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

SHELBY — Lt. Joe Rodriguez of the Shelby-Benona Fire Department was recently honored by the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs as “Company Officer of the Year.”

Rodriguez, 54, has been on the department for 17 years, serving with quiet and focused dedication.

“It’s a big honor,” said Rodriguez. “It’s a reflection of the whole department, starting with the chief (Jack White) and the assistant chief (Mark Burmeister). It’s a reflection of the whole county.” Rodriguez said training is done with the other departments in Oceana County, so he feels his honor was bestowed due to the good training he has received from the neighboring departments.

The lieutenant said the award is also a reflection of a good community, because the community’s support provides a successful fire department.

“I don’t consider this an award just for me,” he said.

“Nobody from the west side of the state has ever got it,” said Shelby-Benona Fire Chief Jack White, who is also the chief for the Hart Area Fire Department. The Shelby department nominated Rodriguez for the award, and an 11-member selection committee of the Michigan Association of Fire Chiefs chose Rodriguez as the recipient. He was honored last week at a banquet in Petoskey.

The honored lieutenant responds to 80 percent of the department’s calls, which is the highest percentage of all the firefighters.

“If I ask him to do something, he does it,” White said. Rodriguez eagerly agrees to participate in various training programs, such as fire prevention, ice rescue and water rescue training, he said.

“I’d take a whole department of him any day of the week,” the chief said.

“I throw all my credit to the chief,” Rodriguez said. “He brings a lot of enthusiasm to the department.”

Rodriguez was a critical firefighter during the Parkview Manor apartment fire in Hart last December. He also saved a Shelby resident during the huge fire in downtown Shelby in 2012 by helping the person escape out a second-floor window during a ladder rescue, White said.

When he’s not fighting fires and saving lives, Rodriguez works in IT at the Department of Health and Human Services office in Hart. He and his wife, Katy, have three daughters: Ana, Alex and Abby.

Rodriguez’s nephew, Jose Anzaldua, is also a firefighter for the Shelby-Benona Fire Department.

He and all of his fellow firefighters are a tight-knit group. “I consider all these guys as my family,” he said.

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