Grayson County Sheriff Rick Clemons has been named to a national review board that helps identify candidates for the highest national award for valor for public safety officers.
Clemons’ appointment was made in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, July 24, and publicly announced the following day. He was recommended for the position on the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Review Board by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s Republican leader.
“It’s just such an honor,” Clemons said of his appointment. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been so humbled. It’s really a huge honor to get to do this.”
The 11-member review board identifies candidates for the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, awarded annually by the president to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life. The award was created in 2001, with the first recipients honored in 2003.
“For over 25 years, Rick has proudly served and protected the people of Grayson County,” Sen. McConnell said. “I am confident that he will be a great addition to the board.”
To receive the Medal of Valor, public safety officers must be nominated by the chief executive officer of their employing agencies, recommended by the Medal of Valor Review Board, and cited by the Attorney General.
Members of the review board are appointed by the president, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and the Speaker and the minority leader of the House of Representatives.
Clemons said he was first contacted by McConnell’s office about six weeks ago regarding the possible appointment. He said he initially questioned the senator’s choice since some other members of the review board lecture at universities and sit on worldwide boards.
“I told them, ‘I’m just a humble country sheriff,’ I don’t know if I can do this,” Clemons said. The response was that McConnell was looking for someone who could bring that working knowledge and perspective to the board.
“I wasn’t about to let the senator down,” Clemons said.
Besides reviewing applications for the medal and recommending potential recipients, Clemons said his duties will likely involve meeting with families of the medal winners.
“That will be what’s so taxing — trying to understand what they’re going through,” he said of the families. “I think you’ll grieve along with these families, but honoring their loved ones with the Medal of Valor will be an amazing thing. This is the ultimate honor for someone who has given (his or her) life in the line of duty.”
Clemons wasn’t sure at press time when his new duties would begin, or how much time they would involve. His appointment runs through 2014, and could be extended after that.
He will be the second Kentuckian to serve on the board. The first, Charles Massarone of Lexington, is a retired Lexington Fayette Urban County Police Department officer and a member of the state and federal parole commissions.
Clemons worked for the Leitchfield Police Department for 19 years before first being elected sheriff in 2006. A graduate of Grayson County High School, he graduated from the Department of Criminal Justice Training Center at Eastern Kentucky University in 1989.