On March 8, the La Mesa Chamber of Commerce celebrated a decade of serving the La Mesa business community during its annual Salute to Local Heroes event.
Like previous years, there were silent auctions, raffles for big ticket items like a new television, plated dinner service and a ceremony for the installation of the board of directors. Even with the hoopla of celebrating its 10th anniversary with cake and speeches and gifts for longtime board members, supporters and especially president and CEO Mary England, the evening’s main event was still focused on honoring local first responders.
Alex England and Ben Schafer, American Medical Response
Paramedic Ban Schafer and EMT Alex England were honored for their response to a 2017 incident at the 7-11 store on Avocado Boulevard. A woman walked into the store with multiple stab wounds and collapsed on the ground.
When Schafer and England arrived, there was a customer applying pressure to the wounds, but the patient was in cardiac arrest. The paramedics’ quick thinking and life-saving skills allowed the patient to be transported to the hospital in time to save her life.
This incident was unique because of the multiple people involved in saving the 35-year-old woman’s life. The store clerk identified the need and called 911; the bystander who acted and kept pressure on the wounds; and Schafer and England’s training to stabilize her condition and take her to the hospital.
Fire Capt. Matthew Kirk and Stella, Heartland Fire & Rescue
Capt. Matthew Kirk has served the citizens of La Mesa since 2006 and was promoted to Fire Captain in 2017.
During that time, Capt. Kirk returned to college to earn a degree in Spanish that included immersion programs in Guatemala and Spain. He uses his Spanish fluency routinely while serving the community.
In addition, Capt. Kirk is also a search and rescue dog handler. Kirk and his dog Stella are members of the Urban Search & Rescue, California Task Force 8. The team responds to major incidents nationwide.
Recently, Kirk and Stella were deployed to the Montecito mudslides for six days. During their time assisting at the disaster site, they spent hours searching through mud and debris, as well as through damaged and destroyed homes. The two also responded to Hurricane Irma in Florida to assist with operations there.
Other ways Capt. Kirk serves the department and the community include maintaining the radio department, serving as training captain and mentor to one of the newest probationary firefighters, and volunteering at local events such as the annual La Mesa Firefighters Pancake Breakfast, La Mesa Fill the Boot Drive and the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
Deputy Fire Chief Greg McAlpine (ret.), Heartland Fire & Rescue
Greg McAlpine began his career with the city of La Mesa Fire Department in 1982, with a starting pay of $5.62 an hour. He became an engineer in 1989 and spent much of the 1990s working on Truck 11, one of his favorite positions in the Fire Department.
In 1998, McAlpine was promoted to fire captain and became division chief in charge of training in 2001. He helped many of the current captains and battalion chiefs get through their probationary first years of service. He also served as a fire marshal.
In 2010, McAlpine became deputy chief of operations for Heartland Fire & Rescue, serving in that position until being reassigned to the new Community Risk Reduction Division in 2016. Also that year, he served as the Interim fire chief for Heartland Fire & Rescue from November to August before retiring.
In addition to his service as a firefighter in La Mesa, McAlpine served on various regional boards and committees, focusing on improving the skills of fire service personal. He is also known to referee local hockey games at the Kroc Center and ride his motorcycle on trips to the outdoors.
Officer Carlos Gaytan, La Mesa Police Department
On July 29, 2017, officer Carlos Gaytan responded to an auto theft investigation at the Denny’s Restaurant on Alvarado Road. The 57-year-old victim stated that his vehicle was stolen while he was eating breakfast.
As Gaytan entered the vehicle into the stolen vehicle system, he realized that it was equipped with On-Star. He contacted On-Star and coordinated the tracking of the stolen vehicle. The vehicle was tracked to the area of Interstate-8, east of Greenfield Drive. On-Star disabled the vehicle and it was located by San Diego Sheriffs. A suspect was arrested after an on-foot pursuit. The victim was contacted, taken to the site and reunited with his vehicle.
Officer Gaytan has recovered an estimated $78,000 in stolen vehicles in 2017 alone and has been La Mesa Police Department’s ATAC Officer of the Year four years in a row. In those four years, he has recovered approximately 95 stolen vehicles with an estimated value of $300,000.
Master Officer Eric Knudsen, La Mesa Police Department
Master Officer Eric Knudsen has worked for La Mesa Police Department for 10 years. During that time, he garnered a reputation for being a role model and mentor to all the employees he has trained.
Officer Knudsen in known as an excellent resource who makes himself available to his peers, answering phone calls day or night, both on and off duty. Knudsen’s positive demeanor around fellow officers or citizens of La Mesa has earned him the recognition as being, “The nicest guy I ever met.”
Mike Boatright, La Mesa Police Department RSVP
Mike Boatright joined the Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol (RSVP) in May 2017 and has already logged more than 400 hours of service. He has served the RSVP program with enthusiasm and eagerness to serve the community from day one.
He quickly learned all the patrol duties and stepped up to further the program by revising several tracking forms utilized by RSVP. He performs many of the administrative tasks required for smooth operation of the program, including scheduling and data collection.
Boatright also assists other RSVP officers with questions and performs various supervisory duties at the numerous special events held in the city during the holiday season.
Chuck Jackson, La Mesa Police Department RSVP
Chuck Jackson joined the RSVP program in 2007 and has volunteered more than 5,000 hours of service to the community. Jackson works for RSVP two days a week and often rides with La Mesa Police officers during their patrol shift.
Jackson’s tradition of service began long before joining RSVP and is a decorated U.S. Army veteran. In addition to RSVP, he consistently helps at special events, both in La Mesa and at the request of other agencies.
When the La Mesa Police Department conducts DUI checkpoints, Jackson is always willing to volunteer for the late-night operation.
Now in his 10th year, and given his vast knowledge and experience, Jackson was selected as one the Police Department’s four lead RSVPs and now handles various supervisory duties within the program.