Capt. Ryan James was named the City of Milton Fire-Rescue Department's 2012 "Firefighter of the Year" at the agency's awards banquet Jan. 26.
Courtesy Milton Fire Department
The 16-year fire service veteran and married father of two was chosen for the honor because of his eternally positive attitude, outstanding leadership and tireless work ethic, said Chief Robert Edgar.
"I was shocked, completely blown away - I'm still in awe of it," said James. "Truly I had no clue; In fact, I was telling one of my guys he was a shoo-in when they announced my name."
James joined the City of Milton for its initial deployment in May 2007 after two years at the Dawson County Fire/Rescue Division - where he was also named employee of the year - and eight years at Rural/Metro Ambulance as a paramedic.
Edgar said in choosing a firefighter of the year, sometimes it's easy because luck and training dictate who's there when a life is saved. It's years like this when things can get tough, because barring one unusual event, you have to choose one man out of a department of standouts.
"This year that man was Capt. James," said Edgar. "Every shift, he was there, lifting his team up and encouraging them through his example. It's tough to quantify why he was the best, but if you're in this department, if you've met him on a call, you know. Everyone knows."
James said the only reason he was able to be considered for the honor was the outstanding men he works with every day and the culture they're allowed to build in the fire service.
"I work with good, positive people who push me every day," he said. "Seriously, anybody could have gotten this award, and they all make up this team."
Going forward, James said he's aiming for his company to be named "Fire Company of the Year" at the 2014 awards. And he's got a plan, courtesy of his 7-year-old daughter Lacey.
"On the Sunday after I won, she presented me with a poster she made," he said. "It says, 'Don't stop doing your job.' And that's what my company lives by now. No matter what, don't stop doing your job. Everything else will fall into place."