Chief deputy honored as hero by Rotary Club

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Socorro County Chief Deputy Shorty Vaiza has been a pillar of the Socorro County community for many years. He serves the public as both a law enforcement official and a heavily involved philanthropist. And recently, the Rotary Club decided to recognize Vaiza for his many contributions.

Jonathan Miller/El Defensor Chieftain: Socorro County Chief Deputy Shorty Vaiza was recognized as a First Responder hero by the Rotary Club of Socorro last weekend for his contributions as a law enforcement official and involvement in the community.

On May 18, Vaiza was honored as a First Response hero during a dinner at the Rotary District 5520 Convention in Albuquerque. He was presented with a certificate and a plaque, and Socorro Rotary Club president Gerry Klinglesmith pinned Vaiza as an honorary Rotarian for his service to the community.

“It’s always an honor when you get recognized by someone that’s not in law enforcement,” Vaiza said.

The award is intended to celebrate law enforcement, fire department and military heroes for their societal endowments. Along with Vaiza, 30 other men and women from the New Mexico and west Texas area were commended at the ceremony with a slideshow and a personal write-up outlining their accomplishments.

“When I went to Albuquerque to receive the award, I was actually very humbled,” Vaiza said. “There were actually some real heroes there. We had some servicemen that were also nominated and received the hero award that, in my book, really deserved it.”

Although Vaiza takes a humble stance in regard to his community service, he was by no means out of his league at the dinner. He’s participated in the Bataan Memorial Death March, the Crusin’ with the Cranes 15 kilometer run that raised money for the Education Transportation Fund, and the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Those represent a small handful of events and fundraisers he’s participated in over the years and don’t include work he’s already done with the Socorro Rotary Club.

Vaiza was previously involved with the club’s “Don’t Meth With Us” program that goes to middle schools and educates kids on the dangers of methamphetamine, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines.

“They are very active. I’m really impressed with the Rotary Club,” Vaiza said. “They’re very involved in the community.” Klinglesmith has known Vaiza since her days as a middle school teacher when he was a resource officer. “He was always so good with the kids,” she said. “Gentle, but firm. He’s no pushover, that’s for sure.”

Klinglesmith also said that this was the first time the Rotary Club of Socorro had participated in handing out the hero award, and that Vaiza was one of the first names that came to mind. “We all agreed that he’d be really good,” she said.

Perhaps more important than receiving the actual award is what Vaiza represents to Socorro County and it’s people, as well as the law enforcement community.

He acts on both sides of the badge; as a keeper of the peace and a contributor to the greater good. And in a time in which the unfortunate actions of just a few individuals have shed an increasing amount of negative light on law enforcement officers nationally, the presence of a man like Vaiza might be more important than ever.

“Like everything, there are two sides to a coin,” he said. “A lot of times we’re portrayed as the bad guys, but I don’t see us as the bad guys. I see us as maybe a crutch for people that need some support from law enforcement.”

That’s precisely the dichotomy that Vaiza exhibits through his actions. Whether he’s acting as the chief deputy for the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department or he’s acting as Shorty, he’s always willing to step up and help any member of the community.

“Even though we’re on duty 24-7, we’re still a part of this community,” he said. “Whatever we do for the community also reflects on us.”

Fortunately for both Vaiza and Socorro County residents, his willingness to serve the people isn’t so much of a job as it is a habit, and it’s one that makes him happy. He said someone made a comment to him about receiving his hero award: “Isn’t it awesome that you get an award for something that you love to do?”

 

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