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Police Department service awards take center stage at Council meeting


The Atwater Police Department stole the show at the City Council meeting on Monday night, with three of its members receiving well-deserved recognition.

Police Chaplain Jim McClellan was recommended by his peers in the chaplaincy to receive honors, after years of serving the department.

“Jim kept the ship in the water for the years of turmoil that preceded my hiring,” said Police Chief Michael Salvador. “Everything is the way it’s supposed to be, and that is a lot of testament to Jim’s hard work and dedication to the unit.”

In response, McClellan said: “This to me is home. I love this little town. I love everybody that’s here. I just want to be a part of this city.”

Kathy Mathis received a certificate recognizing her as Dispatcher of the Year. She is the department’s senior dispatcher and responsible for training new dispatchers, having served for many years in the department.

“She has been there through thick and thin,” said Salvador. “When you’re on the other end of the radio, there’s nobody better.”

The series of certificates were finalized by the police chief and City Council taking a moment to celebrate the retirement of Police Sergeant John Smothers. He had served in Dos Palos, Atwater, and with the Merced County Sheriff’s Department, and was now retiring after 32 years of service to the community.

“All of us that wear the uniform eventually want to be in this man’s position,” said Salvador. “A lot of us don’t make it.” He awarded Smothers a Certificate of Appreciation in recognition of his years of service.

“He’s one of the guys not afraid to run towards the gunshots so we can sleep safe at night,” said Councilman Brian Raymond. “I thank you, and we’re going to miss you.”
Joe Ballas, a representative for Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria, also appeared to commend Smothers on his retirement. After receiving his certificates, Smothers took a moment to speak about his time in law enforcement.

“I remember my first day and my first briefing, and I was the youngest guy in the room … Now everyone [I work with] was born after my first day,” he said.

Smothers went on to thank leadership, his department, and his wife.

“I have been blessed with a very great career,” he said. “It felt like my job meant something.”

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