Mayor Chris Beutler presented the Mayor's Award of Excellence for January to Police Officer Robert "Bobby" Norton. The award was presented at the beginning of Monday's City Council meeting. The monthly award recognizes City employees who consistently provide exemplary service and work that demonstrates personal commitment to the City.
Norton has been with the Lincoln Police Department (LPD) since 2002. He was nominated by Captain Martin Fehringer in the category of customer relations for his work as a school resource officer. Norton has been at Southeast High School since January 2011. Fehringer says this is a key position on the Southeast Team day shift because Norton serves as the sole police officer for a "small town" of more than 2,000 students and staff members. He has a very busy schedule, which includes teaching in a variety of classes, leading a police club and solving the day-to-day problems.
Despite his workload, Officer Norton has developed a relationship with as many students and staff as possible. This has not only made his job easier, it has also shed a very positive light on LPD.
In December, Governor Heineman received an e-mail from a Southeast student Nate Siefkes asking that Officer Norton be recognized for the difference he has made at the school. Governor Heineman sent a personal note to the student, and his office forwarded the e-mail to the Mayor's Office and Police Chief Jim Peschong.
The letter read, "Officer Norton isn't known as a hero by the same means of other officers. From the day Officer Norton walked into Southeast High School he made a difference in my life. He made me a friend, which to me was very weird at the time because I am a good kid. I have never been in legal trouble, so why was he talking to me?
"He got to know a lot of students, I wasn't the only one. Instead of spending his free time in the office, he spent his free time in the halls saying hello to students and asking them how their day was going. He realized that the way to make a difference wasn't to solely enforce the law, but to know the people he was to protect.
"If an intruder were to come into our school, he would have protected us like his family, because he is a big part of the Southeast family, the students are like his brothers and sisters.
"One day I was having a bad day, I was low and things weren't going my way. I could have went to a guidance counselor, but I went to Officer Norton. My day instantly got better, I didn't have to vent my feelings to a random adult. I got to vent to a friend.
"And that is the reason I want him to get recognition for his great work. He made a difference, his presence was noticeable. The students didn't just see the car parked in the front drive, they saw an officer walk around, and it was an officer that truly cared about them and their well-being.
Officer Norton's last day at our school is coming near, and it will be a devastating loss to the student body. He is truly the best police officer in Lincoln."
Fehringer said Norton's work is what LPD wants from its resource officers. He wrote, "Officer Norton's commitment to Southeast High School is exemplary. He accepted the challenge to make a difference to the students and should be proud of his three years at the school. The friendships he cultivated with students and staff will last a lifetime."
The other categories in which employees can be nominated are valor, loss prevention, productivity and safety. Consideration also may be given to nominations that demonstrate self-initiated accomplishments or those completed outside of the nominee's job description. All City employees are eligible for the Mayor's Award of Excellence except for elected and appointed officials.
Individuals or teams can be nominated by supervisors, peers, subordinates and the general public. Nomination forms are available at lincoln.ne.gov (keyword: hr) or from department heads, employee bulletin boards or the Human Resources Department, which oversees the awards program.
All nominations are considered by the Mayor's Award of Excellence Committee, which includes a representative with each union and a non-union representative appointed by the Mayor. Award winners receive a $50 gift certificate, a day off with pay and a plaque. All monthly winners and nominees are eligible to receive the annual award, which comes with a $250 gift certificate, two days off with pay and a plaque.