Malvern police chief receives chamber award

By Wayne Bryan Published January 30, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Nick Hillemann

Malvern Police Chief Donny Taber received the Kristi Parker Norris Leadership Award from the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce at the chamber’s 2014 Awards Banquet on Jan. 23.

Along with promoting business for the county, once a year the Malvern/Hot Spring County Chamber of Commerce looks within its community and honors citizens and organizations for their public service. Eleven individuals and two organizations were honored for their service to the community at the chamber’s 2014 Awards Banquet on Jan. 23.

“We have some exceptional winners this year who worked to improve our culture and community,” said Diana Reggans, chairwoman of the chamber board of directors for 2013. “We need to embrace our culture if we want to make this community ready to move forward.”

The evening’s big award was the Kristi Parker Norris Leadership Award, given to Malvern Police Chief Donny Taber.

Announcing the award, Judge Chris Williams of the 7th Circuit Court and master of ceremonies for the event, praised Taber for effective leadership.

“Donny is a leader that takes action,” Williams said. “He encourages others to do the same and is known for getting things done for the benefit of many in just a short period of time.”

Williams said he remembers Taber as a jailer with the Hot Spring County Sheriff’s Office. Judge Williams called the police chief the epitome of integrity.

Since Taber became chief in 2008, one of his largest accomplishments has been a training center that was built by Taber and his officers. The facility includes a firing range, an obstacle course and a “shoot house,” a building used for training special weapons and tactics teams.

Taber said the center is used by FBI agents, as well as other federal, state and local law enforcement officers. Funding for the $75,000 facility came from grants and donations, and the work was done by the chief and members of his department.

A native Texan, Taber first became a member of the Ward County (Texas) Sheriff’s Office, completing Texas Regional Police Academy training in 1989.

“My mom lived in Malvern, and her family is here, and I moved here to be with her,” Taber said during an interview after the awards dinner. “I became a Hot Spring County sheriff’s deputy in 1995.”

His career almost ended when he fell down concrete stairs at the Hot Spring County Jail, injuring his back and neck. He did not wear a badge for four years.

“I went to physical therapy and worked to come back, after I had been told I never could,” Taber said. “I was cleared and took the test to join the

Malvern Police Department.”

As a Malvern police officer and when he was a deputy, Taber enjoyed working on patrol.

“I didn’t want to be a detective,” Taber said. “The streets are where it is at. That’s where you can make an impact.”

While working on patrol, he said, he responded to a call about a disturbance at a house in Malvern. At the house, a man doused Taber with gasoline. The man then threw the gas around the house and lit a fire in an effort to burn the house down and kill himself.

“I had no choice. I had to run back in the house and bring him out,” Taber said. “I don’t think of it as being brave; it’s just the right thing to do.”

After two years on the street with the Malvern police, Taber was placed on a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force in the region.

“There is nothing like going to buy drugs, and a family member sees you,” Taber said about one undercover assignment. “I knew it would turn bad very quickly.”

Promoted to sergeant, Taber did serve as a detective, investigating violence against women and children.

He became chief of police in 2008. Taber said he took on administrative duties to have an impact on the department.

“I wanted to be part of the hiring process for new officers,” he said. “I knew the more I moved up, the more of an impact I would have.”

Taber was the only award winner at the banquet who was not aware that his name was going to be called.

“I had no idea,” he said. “I don’t know what Judge Williams said as I was walking to the front of the room. Only walking back did I see my mother and my son were there. It is the highest honor I have ever received.”

Among those recognized at the chamber’s event was Cpl. Heath Conrad Dickson of the Malvern Police Department, who was named Law Officer of the Year. The City Firefighter of the Year Award went to Capt. Ronnie Brandon, who first joined the department in 1985. In December, he rescued a woman from her burning home.

Fire Chief Stephen Turner of the South Malvern Rural Volunteer Fire Department was named Volunteer Firefighter of the Year. In presenting the award, Judge Williams said Turner has exceptional firefighting and emergency-management skills and is also a dive master who participates in water rescues.

The Health Care Worker and Emergency Responder of the Year Award winner is Jonathan Goodman of Baptist Health Medical Center of Hot Spring County in Malvern.

According to the nomination, Goodman is admired for his compassion and caring.

The Educator of the Year Award went to Vicky Brim, a teacher of 4-year-old children at the Malvern Head Start/ABC Classroom. She has been a lead teacher for 26 years.

J.M. Bozeman Enterprises, a locally owned national trucking company, is based in Hot Spring County and is a major supporter of local events, including Brickfest, the Malvern Rodeo, the Hot Spring County 4-H and other projects.

The Chamber Member of the Year is College of the Ouachitas. Williams said that under the leadership of Stephen schoonmaker, president of the two-year college, the school has supported active participation in many chamber events, and he has led the steering committee of the Hot Spring County Leadership Forum, sponsored by the chamber.

Darrel Teeter, founder of Teeter Motors, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for his support of many local organizations,as well as charities around the world. According to the introduction of the award, Teeter currently sponsors 24 ball teams in baseball, softball, basketball, football and soccer.

He also helps fund many pageant contestants locally and statewide. Teeter supports a program to fight hunger and is credited with helping provide food for as many as 15,000 people a day since 1996. A minister of the Assembly of God Church, he contributes to many mission programs across Arkansas and around the world. Teeter is also one of the founders of Teen Challenge of Arkansas, working with young people with what is described as life-controlling issues.

“Malvern and Hot Spring County is a better place because of Darrel’s generous heart,” Williams said when introducing Teeter during the awards ceremony.

Before the chamber awards were given out, state Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, presented a proclamation to Marty and Marla Nix, commemorating the 75th year of the Ritz Theater in Malvern that is owned by the couple.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at (501) 244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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