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Battalion Chief Jeff Kanupp and Sergeant Garrett Clark with their awards

2024 Exceptional Firefighter and Police Officer of the Year

Each year, Hickory Elks Lodge 1654 recognizes those who exhibit the patriotic values of duty and honor in service to their community and nation. During the Americanism Awards Ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 3, the Hickory Elks presented public service awards honoring exceptional members of Hickory’s fire and police departments — Battalion Chief Jeff Kanupp and Sergeant Garrett Clark.

Battalion Chief Jeff Kanupp was nominated by his peers and named the 2024 Exceptional Firefighter of the Year. Kanupp joined the Hickory Fire Department in July 2001 and has served as a Battalion Chief since March 2015. He also provides exemplary service to the City of Hickory by serving on committees within the fire department, such as the IT committee. When firefighters hear Chief Kanupp on the radio responding to a call, they know the job will be done right and handled the best way possible. Kanupp takes great pride in his job, and it shows. 

In his nomination for the award, Kanupp’s peers noted his sincere dedication to serving the Hickory community, both professionally and personally. Battalion Chief Kanupp is always there at a moment's notice to assist Hickory Fire Department and the firefighters within his battalion. In addition to offering professional guidance to his team, Chief Kanupp helps firefighters in their personal lives as well by listening and providing advice in any aspect of their lives. One firefighter wrote, “Battalion Chief Kanupp has been one of the greatest influences on my career. He leads his Battalion with dignity, strength, and compassion for his employees as well as the citizens he serves. His passion for the job of firefighting has left an everlasting impression upon myself, as well as others, to strive not only to become strong firefighters, but leaders in all positions we serve.” 

Kanupp has a true servant’s heart. Through his church, he has been to Africa twice, serving as a missionary to help the impoverished with construction of a school and additional mission work.  On his days off, he helps the elderly and widows in his church by mowing yards and doing general maintenance to their properties. 

Throughout his career, he has completed numerous certifications through the North Carolina Fire & Rescue Commission and the National Fire Academy. He has also earned Incident Command and NIMS certifications through FEMA and participated in specialty training classes to expand his knowledge and skills. Kanupp completed the 2013 Chief Officer Executive Development Program through the NC Association of Fire Chiefs and graduated from the 2014 City of Hickory Leadership Academy.  

Kanupp resides in Conover with his wife, Clara, and their daughter, Kayla.  

“Jeff Kanupp is an outstanding individual and an incredible asset to Hickory Fire Department and the fire service. His contributions within our community do not go unnoticed and we’re proud to honor him with this special recognition,” said Hickory Fire Chief Matt Hutchinson. 

Sergeant Garrett Clark was chosen by his peers and named the 2024 Exceptional Police Officer of the Year. Clark was sworn-in at the Hickory Police Department (HPD) in May 2011 and promoted to Sergeant in 2018. Clark is currently assigned to criminal investigations, but because of his continuous effort to be a good role model in all aspects of his life, he is respected at a high level by HPD coworkers in every division. 

Many times within the past year, Clark sacrificed his personal time to ensure whatever HPD matter he was dealing with was handled to a high standard. In his peer nomination for the award, it was stated, “Sgt. Clark always goes above and beyond helping citizens and victims of crime. He is always there, no matter the time of day or night, ready to help anyone or in any area he can. Clark is a great example of the Hickory Police Department’s core values and makes many sacrifices to better the department and the city.”  

Clark is also a regular participant at the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics since 2012 and has since become the organizer for the event. He said that being part of the Hickory community is important in law enforcement and he believes it’s great for HPD to use its platform to help care for the needs of the community.

Clark is married to his wife, Leslie, and they have two young children, Grayson and Kaylie.  

“I am not surprised that Sgt. Clark was selected for this special recognition,” said Hickory Police Chief Reed Baer. “Over the last year, Garrett has demonstrated what it takes to excel and bring others with you in this very challenging profession.”

The City of Hickory is proud of these public servants and congratulates them on receiving this high honor. Special thanks to the Hickory Elks Lodge for its efforts to recognize those who give of themselves to better the community.