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Sheriff honors 'heroes' among staff and citizens
Jason C. Smith, 41, Monroe, stands Tuesday in the area where he talked down a suicidal man who was running into oncoming highway traffic between Monroe and Monticello. It just seemed like the right thing to do, Smith says of his own actions, which earned him recognition from the Green County Sheriffs Department. (Times photo Anthony Wahl)
MONROE - Anger was Jason C. Smith's impulse reaction last month when a man jumped in front of his car on a three-lane stretch of Wisconsin 69 between Monroe and Monticello, near Harper Road.

By the time Smith slammed on the brakes, "he was just a few feet in front of me with his hands up in the air," the 41-year-old Monroe resident said. "I was mad at him."

Then he heard the man's explanation: "Sir, I'm trying to kill myself." Smith realized then his anger was useless and the man needed help.

Smith's actions in the minutes that followed on that July day earned him a Citizen's Award from the Green County Sheriff's Department.

Sheriff Jeff Skatrud handed out Smith's and other awards for exemplary work in public safety and law enforcement at a ceremony Tuesday, Aug. 27.

"We're honoring heroes tonight," said Skatrud, who is retiring at the end of this week after 32 years with the department. "As you can see, this department is in great hands for years to come."

Skatrud hopes the awards ceremony, the first of its kind in years, will become an annual occurrence.

Smith said he feels undeserving.

"I don't feel like I really deserve an award for this. It just seemed like the right thing to do," he said.

After Smith realized what was happening with the man on the highway and saw how emotional and depressed he was, Smith called for help. He stayed with the man and talked with him until a deputy arrived.

A dispatcher at the sheriff's department nominated him for the award.

Smith's calm and quick-thinking actions "likely saved the life of the pedestrian as well as preventing other motorists from being involved in a collision," Skatrud said.

Skatrud also gave a Citizen's Award to Cathy M. Smith (no relation to Jason) of Dixon. In January, she reported an erratic driver on Wis. 69 and stayed in contact with the dispatcher to provide key descriptions of the vehicle, driver and the vehicle's location.

The driver had a blood-alcohol level of 0.25 percent, or three times the legal limit, and was arrested.

Skatrud also awarded members of his staff and others at Tuesday's ceremony.

• Fire Chief Steve Isely and the Juda Fire Department were honored for their dedication and patience when responding to several fatal traffic accidents since January 2011. In less than a year's time, six people died from three crashes along a short stretch of Wis. 11/81 here. The fire department's members remained at the crash scenes for dozens of hours, several times on weekends and holidays, to provide traffic control while deputies investigated.

• The Green County Jail's 17-member staff was honored for successfully implementing the electronic monitoring program that Skatrud reports has saved Green County taxpayers almost $200,000 since June 2011.

• Sgt. Laverne K. Wichelt, a 36-year veteran of the department, was honored for meticulously carrying out his duties as a supervisor and jail deputy under the "stress and constant opposition which is inherent when working with inmates."

• Deputy Pamela J. Tourdot, with the department since 1992, was recognized for her work teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, acting as the liaison to Green County schools and other duties she carries out "unselfishly and with great enthusiasm."

• Deputy Betsy A. Krantz, with the department since 1997, was recognized for her investigative interviews that led to the seizure in 2011 of 46 dogs, most of them Great Danes, from a Decatur Township home. The dogs were deemed to be living in unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

• Deputy Scott A. Ellefson, with the department since 1998, was also recognized for his work on the dog-seizure case. As the department's Humane Officer, Ellefson remained on the case "throughout a lengthy court process and has been asked to provide presentations to other Humane Officer trainees on his experience."

• The Green County Fall Nationals was recognized for its donation to the sheriff's department of $7,000, which covered the startup of an electronic program that tracks individuals suffering from illnesses that cause them to wander off.