First responders gathered in Angleton this week with a singular message: Serving the community is made better through strong relationships.
In Brazoria County, fostering those relationships regularly are what make emergency workers such a vital and great group, said Chief Aaron Ausmus during the First Responders luncheon hosted by the Angleton Chamber of Commerce.
City officials and department heads spoke Wednesday at the luncheon at Angleton’s Business Park. Each shared sentiments about working as a police officer, firefighter or emergency service worker and why those roles are so imperative in the community.
These departments don’t always efficiently communicate, Ausmus said. So working in a community where they do is a blessing, he added.
“Let me say a few things coming from the outside,” Ausmus said. “Being from an adjacent county, not everyone plays well together. But we work well together here with constant outreach that is ongoing.”
Ausmus added that if their guns, clothes or boots were taken away, first responders of this county would find a way to be there for the people.
“No group of first responders work together like we do,” said Lucille Maes, chief of the Angleton Area Emergency Medical Corps. “They don’t talk to each other as often as we do.”
County Judge Matt Sebesta said he didn’t know what the county would do each and every day if it weren’t for the first responders. From hurricanes to floods to everything these workers do behind the scenes, the community has some of the best people filling these roles.
“We couldn’t do this without our first responders. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer some years ago, she got out of hospital care to enjoy Christmas and the holidays with us,” Sebesta said. “She got into distress late one night and we had to call the first responders. I remember Lucille Maes busting through the door, still buttoning her shirt, and she waited with us until the ambulance could get to (my mom). That is my favorite first responder story,” Sebesta said.
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen stressed the importance of a first responder’s role, especially in times of tragedy in light of his recent visit to El Paso.
Bonnen said he was able to offer the El Paso community a little advice after experiencing the Santa Fe shooting last May.
“The biggest challenge they were dealing with in El Paso was that the first responders were not taking the support offered to them. When you go through a tragedy of that sort, take the support,” Bonnen said, adding that he wanted to thank the first responders in this community for all that they do.
Sheriff Charles Wagner has served the community in law enforcement for more than half a century. In that time, he said, he’s seen so much change. One of those changes comes in the form of a tragedy as more officers are being targeted, he said.
“We recently went through a very trying time,” Wagner said. “We had an officer-involved shooting where two people lost their lives. That officer is doing okay, but he was just making a traffic stop when the car pulled into the driveway and shot at my officer before the car even stopped. We’re seeing a total disrespect for law enforcement.”
Wagner said he’s thankful for his time in the industry but it’s time for him to leave. He will be retiring at the end of his term after 52 years.
Being a first responder is a daunting task, said Mayor Jason Perez, who also serves as a firefighter in the community. It’s not an easy job but it is a rewarding one, he said.
“These guys risk their lives every day to protect us,” Perez said. “It’s different being on this side of the table as a Mayor. These men and women are here 24/7 to help. They’re there to give a helping hand. (They) answer the call every day. I get to see it from a humanistic touch. I have the privilege of seeing the back story.”
Perez became emotional speaking about the small deeds first responders perform every day without question. Whether it’s buying lemonade from a young girl in the community or visiting someone’s sick brother, Perez said he wishes the community could see everything they do outside of emergency situations.
“These people put themselves on the back burner to take care of the community,” he said. “I can’t be more proud to say have the best first responders right here in Brazoria County.”
While the message rang clear that first responders are an essential part of Brazoria County, officials at the luncheon also emphasized that without the support of the community they wouldn’t be able to do such a great job.
Angleton residents and Rory the Warrior founders Sherry Dawn and Jason Sheffield are examples of people who offer tremendous support to emergency responders. The two donated one of their Hero Bags with life-saving oxygen tanks to members of the Angleton Fire Department at the event.
“We now have 11 of those bags in the Angleton Fire Department,” said Fire Chief Scott Myers.
He said working in this community has come before everything else in his life but that he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“I was raised on one value that I live by and that’s the golden rule. When I need someone if something happens to me, I don’t want to be anywhere but Angleton,” Myers said.