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Those who keep us safe: Kervin Stewart

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Sgt. Kervin Stewart of the Mississippi Highway Patrol (Photo courtesy Kervin Stewart)

Kervin Stewart was an Army brat, but he found his purpose when he was visiting his grandparents in Mississippi.

“I heard a patrol car coming down the road, and I ran outside,” Stewart said. “I saw a state trooper going by with his lights and sirens on, and I remember looking up at my grandmother and saying, ‘That’s what I’m gonna do one day.’ She said, ‘Well, you probably will, but right now you gotta do what I told you to do.’”

His desire to become a state trooper did not stop after he declared his plans to his grandmother. Stewart followed in his father’s footsteps and served in the U.S. Army for 20 years. In 2006, he joined the Mississippi Highway Patrol, and, more recently, in 2018 he accepted the job as a public affairs officer for Troop C based in Pearl, Miss.

“When I looked at the public affairs job, I saw it as an opportunity to get out here and put a positive message out about the highway patrol,” Stewart said.

He said it is his job to keep people informed, but there is no hesitation when you ask Stewart about his passion. He undoubtedly will say, “safety.”

“Doing what we do, unfortunately, sometimes people get hurt,” he said. “I don’t like when people get hurt, and I definitely don’t like going to people’s houses to notify them that one of their family members or more may not be coming home because of something that happened that could have been prevented.”

Stewart uses his platform to speak to students of all ages about safety, including at colleges. He also has the opportunity to speak to the working people at different businesses about road safety traveling to and from work.

“Being in the position I am in, it gives me the opportunity to speak to people and give them some guidance and influence,” he said.

Stewart, 52, is married with one son and cannot imagine his life any different.

“I have always wanted to be a state trooper,” he said.

His hard work and dedication to his state landed him a high honor. In 2012, Stewart was awarded Mississippi State Trooper of the Year.

“I never expected it,” he said.

Each of the state’s nine districts plus headquarters nominates a trooper for the award. The ten nominees then go to a state board where a winner is chosen.

Stewart’s nomination came from an unexpected event and from an even more unexpected person. Stewart was helping his friend’s grandmother move when they witnessed a head-on collision. One of the cars was engulfed with flames. Even though he was off duty, Stewart and his friend sprang into action.

“You could say we saved that man’s life,” he said. “I ended up getting to him and put the fire out that was all over him. Then, I got him somewhere safe.”

Stewart did not think anything of the incident, he just saw it as doing his job and fulfilling his duty. He had no idea that moment would lead to him being nominated for Trooper of the Year.

“We were actually in Alabama,” Stewart said, “and my supervisor told me that the Alabama State Trooper that was on the scene of the accident actually wrote the letter recognizing what we had done.”

That moment, along with many other memorable moments, is what landed Stewart the high honor.

Each day in the life of a state trooper is different, but Stewart handles each day with honor and dignity.

“You never know what you will encounter day-to-day,” he said. “One thing about this job, when you think you’ve seen it all something else comes along.”

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Jay Measells honors his fellow veterans

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Flags lined Mission 66 on Veterans Day. Inset Lt. Jay Measells. (photos by Ashley Sevier and courtesy Jay Measells)

People traveling on Mission 66 in Vicksburg Wednesday may have noticed the many American flags adorning the sidewalks along the shops, salons, and medical offices that populate the busy road.

People traveling the same route the previous night may have seen the man responsible for placing them there.

The man is Dr. Jay Measells, a dentist and owner of Jay Measells DMD. But before he was Dr. Measells, he was Lt. Measells, U.S. Navy, veteran.

In fact, he credits the Navy for helping him become the successful dentist he is today.

Measells joined the military May 16, 2005, during his second year of dental school.

“Military recruiters came by from time to time with the chance to finish dental school without owing a dime in student loans,” he said. “I thought that was a great idea, and I liked the movie ‘Top Gun,’ so I signed on the dotted line.”

Looking back now, he believes it was the greatest decision of his life.

Measells was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

“While there, I had the chance to work with some of the most talented dentists in every specialty,” he said, “and all the while I was treating the selfless and heroic men and women that comprise one branch of the greatest military in the world.”

Measells served during Operation Enduring Freedom, the global war on terrorism the U.S. launched Oct. 7, 2001, in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“During that time many of the active duty personnel were deployed multiple times. Some came home injured mentally, physically or both,” he said. “And then there were those who didn’t come home at all.”

Measells said he did little in comparison to many of the brave men and women who served, but he feels honored to have walked beside so many heroes.

Veterans Day, Nov. 11, reminds him of his favorite Bible verse, John 15:13. “Greater love hath no man than this, than to lay down his life for his friends”

As for the flags lining Mission 66, Measells said, “It’s just my small way to honor those who have, at one point, written a blank check to this country for an amount up to life.”

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Overton Randolph keeps the fire trucks rolling

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Overton Randolph is conducting the annual fire pump tests last week. (photo by David Day)

You wake up and smell smoke. You quickly walk through the house but can’t find the source, so you grab the kids and call 911. After a few minutes, you can hear the sirens in the distance, but they don’t seem to be getting any closer; the fire truck is broken down.

Overton Randolph’s job is to ensure that such a scenario never happens in Vicksburg. As the mechanic for the Vicksburg Fire Department, his role is to make certain that all in-service fire apparatus are maintained, keeping them in safe operating condition and ready for immediate response.

One of the things he does to keep the fleet operating is pressure testing the pumpers on the trucks.

Overton Randolph prepares to test Engine 8

Last week, Randolph performed annual pressure testing on each truck in the VFD’s fleet. Every truck was tested, including some with the ability to deliver up to 2,000 gallons of water per minute.

The oldest truck in the fleet, Reserve 2, failed its test early in the week. Randolph was able to make repairs, and now the truck actually delivers higher water pressure than it did in its test last year.

Chief Dancyk points out the pressure specs for Engine 8

Randolph has been with the Vicksburg Fire Department for 10 years. He attended Vicksburg High School and is now happily engaged.

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Those who keep us safe: Jeff Merritt

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Jeff Merritt (photo courtesy VPD)

With 27 years in law enforcement, Jeff Merritt comes from a long line of law enforcement officers.

“I had family that worked in Wildlife and Fishery for the state of Louisiana and the local Tensas Parish Sheriff’s Department,” Merrit said. “I’ve just always been around law enforcement.”

Merritt was born in Natchez, but was raised in the tiny town of St. Joseph, Louisiana, in Tensas Parish.

The family traits ran deep in Merritt in his choice to enter law enforcement. He graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, formerly Northeast Louisiana University, with a degree in criminal justice.

“When I graduated, I was doing little odd jobs around Monroe,” Merritt said. “My dad actually came across an ad in the Tensas Parish Newspaper that the Vicksburg Police Department was hiring. I applied and was hired.”

The department hired Merritt in 1993 and appointed him to the Narcotics Division in 1997 where he currently serves as lieutenant. His nearly three-decade career has revolved around one goal.

“I strive to get drugs off the streets,” Merritt said. “I know people think you arrest somebody today, somebody takes their place tomorrow, but you just feel like you’re making it a little better for society each arrest you make.”

One big arrest in Merritt’s career happened in 2015. A group of officers were recognized by the State of Mississippi for a yearlong drug investigation that involved the Vicksburg Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The investigation, which resulted in 23 arrests, netted Merritt the Top Cop award that year, but he stressed that his job can never be done alone.

“You can’t do this by yourself,” he said. “Everything I do, I do with a team. I can’t think of any drug arrest I’ve made that has not had other officers there with me. It’s a team effort, and you’re with your team pretty much more than you are with your family.”

Being away from family in a stressful job could cause some conflict, but Merritt seems to handle the stress well.

“It really doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I really don’t get stressed at work. The hours we work can interfere with family time, and you can miss out on a lot of things, but stress wise, I don’t think it causes me to be too stressed.”

Merritt went into detail how the hours of his jobs are very unpredictable.

“This past week we worked Monday and Tuesday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and then the rest of the week we worked 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.,” he said.

Merritt has one adult daughter and is engaged. He said his fiance knows and accepts the crazy hours.

He said you have to have passion to be in law enforcement.

“You have to do it because it’s something you really want to do,” he said. “It’s not for the money, and with everything going on across the country these days you have to want to do it and do it the right way.”

Merritt has been nominated more than any other first responder in this story series. His passion and “by the book” mentality has separated him from the rest.

“I just try to do my job and treat everybody the same,” Merritt said. “To me it’s a job. It’s not personal. I do my job. I do it right. I do it fair, and I’m honest to everyone.” 

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