Dade County Deputy Mathon Sledge Named Officer of the Year
By LYDIA BERGLAR
In 2022, 245 law enforcement officers died in the United States. In 2023 to date, 33 have died. Of this 278 total, 12 officers were from the state of Georgia. Recognizing these fallen officers, the 18th Annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Ceremony on May 2 also recognized nominated officers and named Mathon Sledge as Officer of the Year.
This annual remembrance and celebration is sponsored by the Trenton-Dade Optimist Club and the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police. Numerous elected officials, volunteer organizations, students from three Dade County schools (Davis Elementary was unable to attend), and other community members joined law enforcement officers at the Dade County Court Facility for the ceremony.
District Attorney Clay Fuller gave the opening statement, saying, “As a prosecutor, I get to work in an air conditioned office. I get to have regular working hours. About the worst thing that’s going to happen to me during the day is I might get a really bad paper cut. So the service and sacrifices that these people make on a daily basis, I may not have the greatest personal experience [with], but in my position as a prosecutor and district attorney, I do have a unique vantage point on their service and sacrifice.”
He presented the idea of “the space between,” saying, “I firmly believe that we live in the greatest country in the world…For us to continue to be the greatest country in the history of the world, it takes people in that thin blue line that stand in that space between order and chaos.”
He then explained “the space between goodbye and hello.” Fuller said, “Each and every day, these individuals wake up, they say goodbye to their spouse, to their family. Sometimes, they don’t know when they say goodbye, if that’s the last opportunity they get to do that…Even if nothing harmful happens to them during that day, we as a community ask them to take on our worst problems…they deal with broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives.”
Fuller concluded, “We live in a wonderful community…but there are people who…want to do harm. Between them and us…is that thin blue line.”
Carlton Stallings of the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police recognized the nominees for Officer of the Year. The nominees were:
- Deputy Mathon Sledge – Dade County Sheriff’s Office
- Officer David Duvall – Trenton Police Department
- Special Agent Daniel Nicholson – Georgia Bureau of Investigation
- Corporal Stetson Stevens – Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division
- MCO3 William Cookson – Motor Carrier Compliance Division
- Trooper Ethan Sarrell – Georgia State Patrol
Sledge was awarded Officer of the Year, and Duvall was recognized for his retirement after 34 years of service in law enforcement.
Of Mathon, Stallings said, “He’s got quite a long list of accomplishments with the Dade County Sheriff’s Office…He had a call last year of a missing 77-year-old man. He went to the house, took the report, and did what he was supposed to do. He could’ve walked away, but he didn’t do that. He organized a search. It was raining, it was dark. He traversed a 60-foot cliff and was able to locate the gentleman.”
Stallings continued, “In another situation, he got a call for a welfare check for a lady. He got to the house and couldn’t get in or make contact with her. He forced his way into the house, found her on the floor, tangled up in her oxygen and medical cords. If he hadn’t found her, she probably would’ve died.”
Of Duvall, Stallings said, “He started out in the jail and moved his way up to jail administrator, captain, [officer] at the school, and later spent part of his career in the Trenton Police Department. He just recently retired honorably after 34 years of service in law enforcement.”
With both somber and celebratory moments, this event brought many in the Dade County community together to thank officers who go above and beyond to serve and protect.