METHUEN — In its annual tribute to first responders, the Methuen Exchange Club came together to honor Police Officer and Firefighters of the Year.

Chiefs Scott McNamara and Tim Sheehy were among those to recognize police Lt. James Gunter and the Methuen Fire Department’s ambulance service for their work over the last year during a dinner and awards ceremony at the Irish Cottage, emceed by the Exchange Club’s Jack MacLeod.

“We like to honor them as part of our civic and community pride programs that we do,” MacLeod said of bringing the agencies together.

Nominated for the award by Capt. Randy Haggar, Gunter stepped to the podium after remarks from McNamara.

“Jim demonstrates his abilities in many ways to work cooperatively and toward the betterment of our department,” McNamara said of Gunter, a 24-year law enforcement veteran who has been “instrumental” in setting up the Methuen Police Department’s new Critical Incident Stress Management Team. “He truly bleeds blue and is a hero in his own right. He’s demonstrated a degree of leadership that inspires others to be great.”

It is the second time Gunter has accepted an Exchange Club Officer of the Year Award. In 2002, he received the honor while assigned to the Narcotics Unit with his partner Aaron Little.

Gunter said it was an “honor” to be recognized as he works to encourage a positive work environment and mental fitness for his fellow officers.

“With the leadership of Chief McNamara, I want to do my part in mitigating the day-to-day stress of officers so they can better serve their community,” Gunter said.

Several Methuen firefighters stepped to the podium to accept awards in recognition of their service during the COVID-19 pandemic, symbolizing the work they did as a team.

Firefighters Danielle Grenier, Michael Bodenrader, Matthew Coco, Robert Cole, and Steven Giarrusso were at the awards dinner receiving the honor on behalf of the entire Methuen Fire Department.

“I am extremely proud of the dedication, efforts, and bravery of our ambulance service over the past year and a half. Firefighters Matthew Coco, Danielle Grenier, Michael Bodenrader, Steven Giarrusso, and Robert Cole represent what our department is all about,” Sheehy said. “Throughout this COVID pandemic, they have worked very hard and sacrificed their own concerns to focus on the needs of our community.”

During his speech, Sheehy acknowledged the tireless work ethic of the city’s firefighters, who answered the call since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Going above and beyond to ensure the safety of city residents, EMS personnel often dealt with a shortage of personal protective equipment, Sheehy said.

“These times have been unprecedented, and the work of all of the firefighters on our ambulance service has been unparalleled,” the chief added.

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