A Warrensville native received the Governor’s Award for Excellence following a dramatic rescue of a man on the Cape Fear River in May.
Reggie Barker, serves as a Sargent for the N.C. Wildlife Commission in Chatham and Lee counties. Barker and his team, consisting of officers Richard Bains and Claude Smith, rescued a man from the river late at night.
“The river was up really high and these people were out there kayaking and got washed down the river,” Barker said. “We put a small river boat out at 1 (a.m.) and fished the guy out of the river basically.”
The man’s mother and father, while swept downstream had made it safely to shore. The son was hanging on to a tree midstream in the rapids of the river.
While performing the rescue, an electrical fuse in the boat shorted out, leaving them without search lights and navigational tools. The group used an 18-foot aluminum boat to throw a life jacket and grab the man, who only suffered from slight hypothermia.
“It is nice to be recognized for doing something like that,” Barker said. “It is part of our job, and we do stuff like that all the time. That’s one of the neat things about our job is that we are always doing something different.”
The team felt confident performing the rescue despite the high waters and heavy wind.
“Our guys, we probably operate a boat and have more experience operating a boat than anybody, let alone law enforcement officers,” Barker said. “We got really comfortable that we could accomplish the mission and not damage our equipment or get anybody hurt.”
Barker was born and raised in Ashe County, graduating from Northwest Ashe High School in 1987. After graduation, Barker joined the U.S. Army and upon his completion of service, joined the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
Barker has been part of the Wildlife Commission since 1992.
The Governor’s Awards for Excellence is the highest honor a state employee may receive. Barker and his team received the award at the Museum of History in Raleigh on Tuesday, Nov.19.
Beforehand, Barker got to meet with N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory during a luncheon provided to the recipients at the Governor’s Mansion.
“The Governor was very gracious and nice,” Barker said. “He was a cool guy to hang out with. (He) sat down and talked to all of us for awhile.”
For more information on the award, go to www.excellenceawards.nc.gov/.