More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Fremont sheriff is named MS Employer of the Year

http://www.chieftain.com/wednesday/news/index/article/15

Wednesday October 17, 2001
By TRACY HARMON
The Pueblo Chieftain

CANON CITY - Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Dean Richardson has struggled to stay in the law enforcement field because of his battle with an unseen adversary - multiple sclerosis.

Richardson, 33, was diagnosed with MS in May 1994, just two years into his career with the sheriff's department. He had MS when he was shot Sept. 16, 1996, as he apprehended a jail escapee in Florence, but a few days later won the American Service Award for Heroism.

Although Richardson is pretty certain that the physical aspects of recovering from the shooting (he still carries the bullet in his lung) did not aggravate the MS, sometimes excessive heat and stress from the job can bring on the symptoms.

"The heat of wearing a bulletproof vest on hot days and stress are adversaries that I manage better than the doctors would expect. I can't worry about my problems - if I can just take care of other people, then I'm happy," Richardson said.

Despite the MS, he was eager to join the manhunt for fugitives who had slain a police officer in the Cortez/Four Corners area a few years ago. It was there he met Middlemiss, then El Paso County undersheriff, for the the first time.

"I ran all over the desert and my MS was never an issue. I don't make it an issue," Richardson said.

Because of that, Richardson feels comfortable continuing to do what he does.

"My weakest point came when the (former sheriff’s) administration felt I could not do my job, that I would put the department in some sort of a liability position. Although I never had a problem with other officers feeling I could back them, I was considered a liability."

But then, on May 1, Middlemiss became Fremont County sheriff and that attitude changed.

"He said I could do community relations, public relations and handle internal affairs work. Ivan takes you for what you are and he does not do anything special for you," Richardson said.

Still, Richardson felt Middlemiss could have "easily let me go with no violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act." So, Richardson nominated Middlemiss for an award after reading a call for employer of the year nominations in the National MS Society Connection magazine.

As a result, Middlemiss will be recognized as Employer of the Year Thursday by the Colorado Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis during a meeting in Denver.

"It (award) was a total shock to me. I'm honored, obviously, and I just really don't know what to say," Middlemiss said.

The sheriff said he simply looks for and tires to hire "the best person for the position. I look at talents and abilities, I don't look at limitations - I'm an optimist," Middlemiss explained.

"I knew what Dean could do. MS was not an issue - I needed someone with strong communication skills and someone who was well known in the community," Middlemiss said, part of his goal to establish a more open department.

But beyond professionalism, Middlemiss, "is a caring human being who is truly concerned about the welfare of his employees and their families," Richardson said.

For Richardson, that means a lot because the first priority in his life is his family - wife, Vani and son, Corey, 5, - and "my second life is my job."
 

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