|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Sunday, 01 January 2012 00:00|
Board members stood and applauded after presenting Merry Carol Shanks a plaque commemorating the untold injuries she prevented, among many other accomplishments, during her 20 years of service to area fire districts.
Verde Valley Fire District board member Dick Dobbin’s voice wavered only slightly as he recounted the VVFD public information officer’s distinguished history of service in the Verde Valley.
“It is hardworking people like yourself which make this fire district as successful and respected as it is today,” Dobbin told Shanks. “With your hard work and effort, the best service is provided our district customers by the best people in this business which definitely includes yourself.”
Shanks started with Cottonwood Fire Department in 1991. Cottonwood Fire Chief Don Eberle, who hired her, won high praise from Shanks, who called him the most influential mentor in her long career.
“He gave me the chance,” she said after the Dec. 20 meeting. “He is the ultimate fire chief.”
After eight months with the city, Shanks accepted an offer from Verde Rural Fire District, which eventually merged with VVFD. Between 1991 and Jan. 1, 2012, Shank’s official retirement date, she counts more than 20 years of service to the community.
“We all remember the times she did this very important job, assisted the chief, helped firefighters, worked on payroll, contracted fire prevention activities and many more tasks which need to be done in an organization such as this,” Dobbin said.
One of her proudest accomplishments, a workbook used to construct the annual budget, is an important tool still used by the board.
After several years as an administrator, Shanks became the district’s public information and education coordinator.
“Merry has always had her heart in public education,” Dobbin said. “[She] welcomes and appreciates the previous chiefs’ recognizing her passion for that area of the fire service and allowing her to work on it in and around her administrative duties.”
Shanks became famous among local schoolchildren as Ashley, the purple-haired clown who taught fire prevention. Her costume enabled children to learn the important messages she had to pass along, always stressing the importance of safety.
“Merry doesn’t leave out the great feeling of warmth and happiness she receives when regularly playing as a clown and getting those hugs and smiles from all the children and also the seniors,” Dobbin said.
“I appreciate the time I had here to grow and serve our community,” Shanks said.
A trip to Alaska with family is on the agenda for the near future, but Shanks expects to stay busy in her retirement by continuing to serve the public and her family.
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