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Local dispatcher is 'always there,' earns Pursuit of Excellence Award

From safety to Santa, Jerry Fradet does it all. Jerry Fradet, a 50-year-old communication specialist for the Mitchell Department of Public Safety, was awarded the Pursuit of Excellence Award, which recognizes one full-time DPS employee each year ...

Mitchell Communication Specialist Jerry Fradet answers a call on Monday afternoon at the Mitchell Public Safety building. The Mitchell Department of Public Safety recently awarded Fradet, the Pursuit of Excellence Award. The award is an annual award presented to an employee from the Mitchell Department of Public Safety that exhibits a professional commitment to the Mitchell Department of Public Safety and the citizens of the Mitchell area. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Mitchell Communication Specialist Jerry Fradet answers a call on Monday afternoon at the Mitchell Public Safety building. The Mitchell Department of Public Safety recently awarded Fradet, the Pursuit of Excellence Award. The award is an annual award presented to an employee from the Mitchell Department of Public Safety that exhibits a professional commitment to the Mitchell Department of Public Safety and the citizens of the Mitchell area. (Matt Gade/Republic)

From safety to Santa, Jerry Fradet does it all.

Jerry Fradet, a 50-year-old communication specialist for the Mitchell Department of Public Safety, was awarded the Pursuit of Excellence Award, which recognizes one full-time DPS employee each year who is both a good worker and a benefit to the community, Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg said.

"I was kind of taken by surprise when I got it," Fradet said. "It's quite an honor to have gotten it and kind of humbling."

Fradet consistently shows dedication that goes "above and beyond what is expected from a communication specialist," Overweg said in a press release.

He was chosen out of roughly 65 full-time employees, Overweg said. Anybody can submit a name for consideration, and the command staff - made up of Overweg, Assistant Chief of Police Mike Koster, Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris, Director of Communications Marlene Haines, Detective Lt. Don Everson and occasionally Traffic Division Supervisor Dick Figland - considers several employees and selects a winner.

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Overweg said Fradet's work ethic, dedication, professionalism and involvement in the community set him apart this year.

"If you need a volunteer or if there's something out there, especially if it involves kids or anything like that, he's always there," Overweg said. "He takes it very serious and he puts his heart into whatever he does."

According to Overweg, the Pursuit of Excellence Award was first awarded in 2014 to Koster. The 2015 recipient was Joe Dolezal, a firefighter, who Fradet praised.

"You just kind of look at yourself and ask, 'Do I really do that much?' " Fradet said, in comparison to Koster and Dolezal.

As part of the award, Fradet is allowed to attend a conference or training of his choice. Given the chance, he already has one idea selected.

"I've kind of been snooping around to find out about the FBI hostage negotiations school," Fradet said. "And if that's not a possibility, I'll look a little farther for something else, but that would be, I guess, my area of interest."

'Not a job cut out for everybody'

Fradet became a communication specialist in October 1996 after serving 10 years in the United States Air Force. He's been with the department for more than 19 years.

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As a communication specialist, Fradet answers incoming business calls, 911 calls and walk-in traffic and determines whether to send police, fire or ambulance crews. The calls come from Aurora, Brule, Davison, Hanson, Hutchinson, McCook and a small portion of Lyman counties.

"A lot of times, it's something silly like a water break, and it's just finding the right person to take care of the problem," Fradet said. "It's not a job cut out for everybody."

After becoming a communication specialist, Fradet thought about becoming a negotiator, which is unusual for communication specialists, Overweg said. Fradet said he thought it made sense, since he already had the skills of talking on the phone and reading situations.

A group from Florida eventually came to Pierre to teach a negotiator certification course. Fradet and three others from the department signed up, including now-Division of Criminal Investigation agent Chris Konrad.

Fradet's most cherished memory as a negotiator comes from an incident roughly six years ago, when he and Konrad were parked outside a house, trying to convince an armed man to come outside.

Konrad talked to the man for a couple hours, Fradet said, but the man stayed inside. Fradet took over, and 15 to 20 minutes later, the person came out of the house.

According to Fradet, Konrad took over once again, and the man "told him where to go" and went back into the house. Fradet was able to coax the man out again after another half hour of negotiating.

"It ended the way it's best to end. Nobody got hurt, and I can still rip Chris about it, 'Remember the time you talked the guy back into the house?' " Fradet said.

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Serving with honor

Overweg praised Fradet for his role on the honor guard alongside Assistant Chief of Police Mike Koster, firefighters Ben Vanden Hoek, Joe Dolezal, Chad Cody and Zach Dalrymple and Patrol Officer Pat Marler.

The honor guard is the group of nicely dressed men at the beginning of parades, Fradet said. They also assist military funerals when National Guard members are overseas.

"We always try to be there if somebody asks for us to show up," Fradet said.

Mitchell's honor guard began with a discussion between Fradet and then-Chief Doug Feltman after attending a memorial for fallen officers in Pierre. After returning to Mitchell, Feltman said he wished Mitchell had an honor guard, and Fradet told him, "You're the chief, can't you make one?"

About a week later, Fradet was told Feltman wanted to see him, and he was assigned to get the guard started.

"I guess back then I was one of the few people who had been in the service, and he must have thought I was the one on honor guard stuff," Fradet said. "So we did a little work and put a team together, and it's still going."

Fradet was also given merit for his attention to detail, particularly when it came to his uniform.

About a year ago, according to Fradet, the department switched from button-up shirts to polos, but before the switch, Fradet starched his shirt and shined his shoes meticulously, a practice that carried over from his time as a security dispatcher for the Air Force.

Although many of his interactions with the public are over the phone, some people walk into the building, and Fradet said he wanted to make a good impression.

"They always said in security (in the Air Force), your first impression is usually what makes or breaks the right decision. (I) just try to treat everybody the way they should be treated," Fradet said.

Fradet also serves as a training specialist when needed, helping new dispatchers adjust to the communication specialist role.

Excellence everywhere

But the Pursuit of Excellence Award isn't just awarded for excellence inside the DPS building. It requires the employee to create value in the community as well, and Fradet gives back in many ways, especially over the holidays.

Soon after he was hired, Fradet became involved with Toys for Tots, a program that donated toys to children around Christmas.

Initially, Pepsi would loan a truck to the volunteers who would deliver toys to kids' houses and have Santa visit with them before going to the next stop.

"So many of the people that we dealt with, their parents had been in trouble with the law before," Fradet said. "You go and don't arrest people. You go and bring Christmas joy to them."

When the logistics of the program became too overbearing, the program became stationary, and toys were given away in the sheriff's office. Eventually, this too became too difficult to maintain, and the program ended.

Fradet found other ways to keep sharing the Christmas spirit. He and his wife, Nancy, dress as Santa and Mrs. Claus several times a year, making visits to houses, a nursing home in Freeman, an event called Cocoa with the Clauses in Huron and an event in Letcher, where they live.

"If someone needed a Santa Claus, I wouldn't ask for anything, I would just go and visit, and if they gave me something that was great, and if not, it was about the kids being happy," Fradet said.

Fradet has also played the part of McGruff the Crime Dog and acquired two trench coats of his own.

"It keeps you busy, and it looks good for the department in the community's eyes. Pretty much everything is to try to make the agency look good," Fradet said.

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