2023 Exceptional Firefighter and Police Officer of the Year
Each year, Hickory Elks Lodge 1654 recognizes those who exhibit the patriotic values of duty and honor in service to their community and nation. During the Americanism Awards Ceremony on Saturday, February 4, the Hickory Elks presented public service awards honoring exceptional members of Hickory’s Police and Fire Departments.
Senior Firefighter Russell Kruse was named the 2023 Exceptional Firefighter of the Year. Kruse is an outstanding member of the City of Hickory and a valued employee of the Hickory Fire Department. He has shown great pride in his work and has been a member of the department since February 1, 2013, when he was hired as a firefighter. Kruse is senior firefighter currently assigned to Rescue #1.
Kruse was nominated for this award for several reasons. First, he continues to go above and beyond to complete trainings that will benefit the department and citizens. As well as being trained in the areas of Firefighter, EMT, and Rescue Technician, Kruse has also volunteered to serve as part of the Rescue crew. He is one of 24 specially trained rescue personnel in the Hickory Fire Department. Examples of this additional training include confined space rescue, swift water rescue, trench rescue, and structural collapse.
Although not in his job description, Kruse has also used his talents and expertise in computer programing to improve fire department operations and to serve on the Fire Department Information Technology Committee. With the implementation of a new records management system, he created a station check sheet to better track equipment used in the field. He also took the lead to speck and install camera equipment for the department’s switchover to the Microsoft® Teams video conferencing system, which allows the department to be compatible with other stations and departments. He is currently working with the City’s Information Technology Department to set up the fire department’s MDT’s (Mobile Data Terminals). This program tracks fire apparatus to improve efficiency in emergency response incidents and provides readily available information on preplans of buildings, chemicals stored, and additional relevant information during response.
Kruse also uses his rescue training to complete specialized tasks for the City. Recently, he climbed on a tower over 200 feet in the air to work on the City’s livestreaming web camera. This process involved two climbs and saved city taxpayers several thousand dollars.
Kruse is married to Lynsey and has a daughter named River.
“Russell Kruse is truly a team player, an outstanding person, and a valuable employee. We are proud to see him recognized by the Hickory Elks for his dutiful service to the community and the firefighting profession,” said Hickory Fire Chief Matt Hutchinson.
Master Police Officer Chris Berry was chosen by his peers and named the 2023 Exceptional Officer of the Year. This year will be his 12th year with the Hickory Police Department. Over the years, he has served as a patrol officer and K-9 handler, and worked with two K-9s, Rony and now Zip.
MPO Berry continuously displays the Hickory Police Department’s core values of professionalism, accountability, compassion, and teamwork on a daily basis. Berry always tries to lift others up, or at least see the “silver lining.” He is an active leader in the K-9 Unit, facilitating training for the unit and serving as an informal leader while on calls. He also stays in peak physical condition, working out every day to stay mission ready for patrol. He displays to young officers the importance of maintaining a high level of job-related functional fitness.
Berry knew early on in his life that he wanted to be a police officer, but waited to pursue the career until he was in his 30s. He attended Basic Law Enforcement Training at Western Piedmont Community College in 2010, and with encouragement from his instructor, applied to the Hickory Police Department.
Berry found his passion for K-9 training after his first year at HPD. In 2014, he was partnered with his first dog, Rony. Today, Berry and his current K-9, Zip, are commonly seen at community events around Hickory. Berry enjoys meeting citizens and educating them about K-9 training and positive work the K-9s do in the community.
Officer Berry is married to his wife of 23 years, Barbara, and they have two now adult children, Brandon and Hannah.
“HPD is fortunate to have such a strong leader as Chris Berry taking our young officers under his wing, showing them the right way to serve and protect. We are proud to recognize him as the Elks Exceptional Police Officer of the Year,” said Hickory Police Chief Reed Baer.
The City of Hickory is proud of these public servants and congratulates them on receiving this high honor. The City appreciates the Hickory Elks Lodge and its efforts to recognize those who give of themselves to better the community.