Howard County Police Sgt. Richard J. Maltz eased fears of Columbia residents last August when he tracked down nine teens who police say pistol-whipped another boy on a pathway.
Sergeant Maltz said solving that crime was just part of his job. But the officer's co-workers thought his leadership in 1994 was outstanding enough to nominate him for Police Officer of the Year.
He is one of 31 county police officers, firefighters and educators being recognized Thursday night by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce for community service.
"I feel honored, but I just do the best job I can," said Sergeant Maltz, a 7 1/2 -year veteran who supervises patrol officers in Columbia. "We're involved with many people, and somehow we make a difference in what we do."
The awards were based on recommendations from supervisors, co-workers, county residents and students, said Don Wood, co-chairman of the Community Awards Night Committee.
Sponsored by The Sun and NationsBank, the annual awards will be presented at a dinner at the Turf Valley Hotel and Country Club in Ellicott City. All the honorees were announced about a month ago, except the Educator of the Year, who is a surprise recipient at the dinner each year.
Another honoree, Howard County Fire Sgt. Barry Bennett, said his job has prepared him to "expect the unexpected," but the veteran said he was taken off guard when he was named Career Firefighter of the Year.
"I'm really surprised," said Sergeant Bennett, who draws fire plans in buildings that serve as maps for firefighters in actual emergencies.
He said he has made the most of his job by "staying on my toes" and "knowing my limitations." Still, he said, work in the field keeps fire prevention exciting.
"You can go to school all you want or read all the books you can, but experience on the street is the best teacher," Sergeant Bennett said.
In similar spirit, saving lives has become a joy for Sean Alliger, the Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. Mr. Alliger says his mother used to suggest other careers because she thought firefighting was dangerous.
"This is always something I've wanted to do," said Mr. Alliger, who has volunteered six years for the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. "I get satisfaction from helping others."
Mr. Alliger, a student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, assisted other county rescue workers in a 12-hour search for a 4-year-old girl in West Friendship last fall. The girl was found safe in bushes near her home, he said.
Safety on the highways is the forte of Howard County's Trooper of the Year.
State Tfc. Jeffrey K. Eichorn left an indelible impression on Howard County in 1994, leading his peers by issuing 2,077 traffic citations and 1,599 traffic warnings on Interstates 95 and 70.
Trooper Eichorn also made 17 drug arrests during his searches of suspicious vehicles last year, enforcement he said is essential to making the roads safe.
Howard County's Sheriff's Deputy of the Year, Jerome Featherstone, said he learns a lot about human nature by talking to the prisoners he transports for the county courts.
He uses their stories and his own to help counsel disruptive schoolchildren. Deputy Featherstone, also runs a wrestling program in the East Baltimore neighborhood where he grew up."I'm just thankful God put me in the position where I can help people," he said.
Others to be honored at the Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony include:
* Firefighter awards: Lt. Charles Sharpe, gold plaque award; Firefighter Eric McIntosh and Lt. Carey McIntosh, silver plaque awards; Sgt. Michael Faith, Chaplain George Grimm and Firefighters Karen Fischer and Steve Hardesty, honorable mentions.
* Police and sheriff awards: Sheriff's Deputies Andrew Timmons and George Voll and Police Officer James P. Capone Jr., bronze plaque awards; Pfc. Donald J. Becraft, silver plaque award; Police Cpl. Alvaro J. Bellido de Luna and Detective George T. Glorioso, Cpl. Karen E. Shinham, Detective Mark M. Miller and Cpl. Stanley B. Proudlock, honorable mentions.
There also are 10 teachers who have been named Outstanding Educators by the chamber. One of them will be named Educator of the Year at Thursday's awards dinner:
* Carolyn Cradler, head of the science department at Glenelg Country School.
* Myron Dutterer, drama teacher at Centennial High School.
* Darlene Fila, assistant principal at St. John's Lane Elementary School.
* Harriette Greenberg, assistant principal at Clarksville Middle School.
* Sharon "Shari" Hofmann, second-grade teacher and team leader at Pointers Run Elementary School.
* Peter "P. J." Kesmodel, guidance counselor at Mount Hebron High School.
* Rick Lawrence, choral music teacher at Howard High School.
* R. Scott Pfeifer, principal on special assignment in the Howard County school system.
* Holly Smith, reading specialist at Laurel Woods Elementary School.
* David Stevens, earth science teacher at Glenelg High School.