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Those who keep us safe: Samantha McKenzie

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Samantha McKenzie on the job at E-911. (photo by Kami May)

From day one Samantha McKenzie knew her calling was to be a  first responder. 

“I am an adrenaline junkie,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie started out at the Warren County Volunteer Fire Department with Bobby Rufus, administrator at Warren County 911 Emergency or E-911.

“Bobby Rufus said, ‘Hey we got openings up at dispatch,’ and I was saying to myself ‘I don’t know about that’,” McKenzie said.

Her apprehension came from her love of being an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT. 

“I had just finished up at Hinds in Raymond to be an EMT,” she said, “and I wasn’t sure at the time if I would even like life as a dispatcher.”

Turns out her fear was for no reason at all. McKenzie fell in love with being a dispatcher and is still able to fulfill her EMT tank part-time. 

“I’m so passionate about my job,” she said. It’s never the same every day. It’s not one of those routine 9-a.m.-to-5 p.m. jobs where you come in and clock out. It’s different.”

McKenzie started her life as a dispatcher in 2012, and she got confirmation she was good at what she does when she was named Dispatcher of the Year after her first full year at E-911 in 2013.

“I was motivated to get Dispatcher of the Year,” she said. “That moment sticks with me because it was a huge goal I set for myself, and I made it within my first year of being here.”

During the month of April, hardworking dispatchers and public-safety telecommunicators celebrate National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. Normally, this week falls during the second week of April.

“At the end of the week, the supervisors get together and nominate dispatchers who they think should be dispatcher of the year,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie said this is not an easy task to achieve.

“You have to have good discipline—no write-ups, no call-outs—and you have to have good call (evaluations),” she said. “Everything adds up. It is a big deal for whoever gets it. It’s huge.”

Working at E-911, McKenzie has a choice to work days or nights and oddly enough with three children and a fiance in law enforcement, nights work best for her.

“Nightshift works out easier for my family because my fiance works days,” she said, “and he is a police officer, so our schedule works out well with getting them to school and wherever else they need to go.”

The 29-year-old dispatcher and Warren Central graduate enjoys the outdoors with her family when she’s not coordinating emergencies. 

“My family and I love the outdoors. Hunting, fishing, horses—you name it. If it’s outside, we will do it,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie has been with E-911 for eight years and she has no plans of putting down the headset anytime soon. 

“This job is ever-changing,” she said, “and I love it.”


“Those who keep us safe” is a series profiling people in Vicksburg and Warren County whose work contributes to our safety, whether on the front lines, in the back office or in positions of leadership in organizations dedicated to serving the community in times of danger and crises. Nominate someone for the series by sending an email to [email protected], letting us know why the community should know about him or her.

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Super Brody turns six and meets his hero – VIDEO

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Photo by David Day

One of Vicksburg’s tiniest heroes celebrated his sixth birthday in a big way.

Photo by David Day

Brody Larry took a break from fighting cancer Tuesday to celebrate his birthday. Many of his friends at the Vicksburg Police Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Vicksburg-Warren Fire Departments joined the parade of family and friends to honor him on his special day.

The Make A Wish Foundation went a step further to make Brody’s birthday a memorable one by arranging a very special appearance from his hero, Spiderman.

Mom, Bridgette, looks on as Brody embraces his hero (photo by David Day)

Make A Wish also gifted Brody an Amazon shopping spree, where he picked out a Spiderman themed bedroom makeover set, an ATV, and a PlayStation 5.

Brody is fighting a very rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, and has been receiving treatment at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.

Brody’s mother has left the workforce and dedicated herself to caring for Brody and getting him the treatments that he needs.  The family has set up a Go Fund Me account for anyone who wishes to contribute.

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Those who keep us safe: Carl Carson

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(photo courtesy Carl Carson)

Back in 1990, a close friend talked Carl Carson into joining the Vicksburg Fire Department. Thirty years later, Carson is still at the department and loving every minute of it.

“I had no idea I would be here this long, but once I got into the service, the love of people kept me here,” he said.

Carson is a people person, and he believes he was put on this Earth to help people.

“Being able to be there for people in their most vulnerable time really has been the drive in my career,” he said.

The Utica, Mississippi, native comes from a large family who taught him to be there for one another during hard times. He believes his upbringing played a part in him enjoying his career.

“I’m not a hero,” he said. “It’s just a part of the job and how I was raised. I grew up helping people.”

Carson is the battalion commander for the Vicksburg Fire Department. In his three-decade career, he has felt the most success when he was serving his community, and he does not need a spotlight to do so.

“I don’t need the front row,” he said. “I’m more of the silent helper. I do my job to the best of my ability. I’m honest and treat everyone equally and fair.”

Carson has been married to his college sweetheart since 1986 and the couple have two adult sons, three granddaughters and one grandson.

His family understands and accepts the career path he has chosen, but it hasn’t always been easy on family life.

“I’ve sacrificed a lot of Christmases, holidays, birthdays, and ballgames to do what I do,” Carson said. “Even though I miss out on something, my heart is always right there with them. My family has always known I love them and love what I do.”

(photo courtesy Carl Carson)

Carson’s love for public service evidently rubbed off onto his family because one of his sons is a police officer with the Vicksburg Police Department.

The fire department never closes. The men and women at the Vicksburg Fire Department stand ready to serve the community at a moment’s notice without regard to holidays.

“My mom has a picture of my entire family — all of my siblings, their spouses, my children, my nieces, nephews, cousins — and I am the only person not in this particular photo because I had to work on Christmas Day,” Carson said. “I often tell that story and feel that moment of not being there, but I knew, and family knew, I would have to sacrifice moments like that.”

Carson laughed and said he has often thought about photoshopping himself into the picture.

Even though firefighters may miss out on holidays with their biological family, Carson said the firefighters make a family as well.

“The men and women I work with are my family away from family,” he said. “We watch each other’s kids grow up, and our families know each other.”

It is a bond like no other. Fighting fires is a life-saving act that cannot be done alone.

“We are one big family,” Carson said. “We are a team. I would put my life on the line for them, and I know they would do the same for me. It doesn’t matter their race, gender, age or rank. We are all out there trying to do a job and do it safely.”

Vicksburg being a small town, Carson said firefighters often run into family members and friends who need fire and emergency medical service.

“Anytime you deal with your own family members or anyone you know is hard and it really touches you,” he said.

Carson said he goes above and beyond for everyone, but when he knows the person, he feels extra pressure to be his very best.

Three decades have passed and Carson is still with the Vicksburg Fire Department and has not announced any particular date to break out the golf clubs and retire, but he has some thoughts of what he will do when that day arrives.

“When that comes, I can’t wait to spend time with my wife, kids and grandkids,” he said. “They are my inspiration.”

Although retirement is on the horizon, the people of Vicksburg still need Carson. His passion for the community is unwavering, and his love for people runs deep.

“People, people, people, people — that’s just what it’s about,” Carson said. “Even though my job deals with people when they’re in distress, I try to bring so much love and joy to them and put a smile on their face during a devastating time. It really goes a long way.

“This is so much more than a job. It goes beyond the job.”

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Josh Morgan wins the VDN Head Coach of the Year award

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VDN Head Coach of the Year Josh Morgan (photo by Ced Tillman)

Warren Central High School football coach Josh Morgan is the Vicksburg Daily News Head Coach of the Year.

Morgan played football at Warren Central in the late 1990s under his father Robert Morgan. He eventually committed to play football at Mississippi State University where he was a star safety and named to the All SEC team in 2001.

Morgan began coaching at the University of Memphis in 2004 as a graduate assistant before returning to Warren Central in 2006 to be the Vikings’ defensive coordinator.

In 2010, Morgan was named as the Vikings’ head coach after the retirement of Curtis Brewer.

Morgan struggled in his first two years as head coach. The team went 2-9 in 2010 and 1-10 in 2011. He broke through in 2012, when the Vikings their first playoff appearance under his leadership.

Morgan and the Vikings have made it to the playoffs each year since 2012, and this year marked his ninth consecutive season making it to the postseason.

The Vikings had a 9-3 record this season, and made it to the second round of the playoffs. They finished with the best record out of the four high schools in Vicksburg.

Morgan is the second coach to win the VDN Coach of the Year award after Vicksburg Junior High Coach Larry Carter Jr. won it last year.

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