For Immediate Release: 12/16/2021

State Parks Employees Honored with Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award for Heroic Acts

Douglas Johnson

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California State Parks is proud to announce that 15 State Park Peace Officers (SPPOs) and one seasonal non-peace officer lifeguard were honored today with the Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Awards for acts of heroism. The Medal of Valor Award is the highest honor the state can bestow upon its employees, given on behalf of Governor Newsom.

“While many of the public servants honored this year may say that they were simply doing their job, their heroic and selfless acts that they perform every day while putting their own lives at risk are to be admired and recognized,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “Thank you for your heroic strength to face danger.”

Actions taken by this year’s State Parks recipients include saving countless lives and property during the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise; the 2018 Carr Fire near Whiskey Town Lake and Shasta State Historic Park; saving kayakers in dangerous ocean conditions off Fort Bragg; responding to an active shooting and manhunt at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area; and rescuing a shark attack victim while off-duty in San Diego County.

Here is the list of SPPOs and the non-peace officer seasonal lifeguard being honored this year:

Butte County

Northern Buttes Park District 

  • Christopher Beehner, SPPO (Ranger) – Gold
  • Daniel Marinella,SPPO (Ranger) – Gold
  • Eldon McBride,SPPO (Ranger) – Gold
  • Kirk Coon, SPPO Supervisor (Ranger) – Gold
  • Lori Martin, SPPO State Park Superintendent II (retired) – Silver
  • Mark Hofer,SPPO (Ranger) san– Gold and Silver
  • Matthew Stalter, SPPO Supervisor (Ranger) – Gold
  • Michael Van Pelt, SPPO (Ranger) – Silver
  • Travis Gee, SPPO State Park Superintendent II – Gold
  • Sabrina Buis SPPO (Ranger) – Gold

Mendocino County

Sonoma-Mendocino Coast Park District 

  • Ean Miller, Lifeguard II (Seasonal) – Gold

Placer County

Gold Fields Park District 

  • Andrew Helble, SPPO (Lifeguard) – Silver

Sacramento County

Law Enforcement and Emergency Services Division 

  • Brett Weber,SPPO (Ranger) – Silver
  • Zackery Chambers, SPPO (Ranger) – Gold

San Luis Obispo County

San Luis Obispo Coast Park District

  • Chris Hendricks,SPPO Supervisor (Ranger)/K-9 Handler – Silver

Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz Park District

  • Scott Sipes, SPPO Supervisor (Ranger) – Gold

The Medal of Valor Award is sponsored by the California Department of Human Resources. Award nominations are made by the employee’s department, reviewed by the statewide Merit Award Board, and selected by the Director of CalHR. Since the program began in 1959, 700 state employees have received Medals of Valor.

The award comes in two distinctions: the Special Service Award (Silver) for an act of heroism by a state employee extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service performed at personal risk to his or her safety to save human life or state property and the Special Act Award (Gold) for an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service, performed at great risk to his or her own life in an effort to save human life.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Medal of Valor Awards were presented virtually to the recipients. CalHR Department Director Eraina Ortega introduced the agency secretaries who honored recipients by telling their brave acts of heroism. Medals were presented to the 46 individuals across eight state departments on behalf of Governor Gavin Newsom. Agency secretaries include Kathleen Allison, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation; Wade Crowfoot, Natural Resources Agency; David S. Kim, Transportation Agency; and Yolanda Richardson, Government Operations Agency.

To view the award ceremony, you can visit CalHR’s YouTube page. For more information about the award, visit the Medal of Valor website. Details of each recipient’s award will be posted to the website after the ceremony.

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California State Parks provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high quality outdoor recreation.