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Clarendon County Hometown Heroes has announced its third law enforcement honoree for 2017.
State Department of Natural Resources Capt. Billy Downer was nominated by a local 5-year-old boy, one of Downer's students during children's moments at Manning United Methodist Church.
Founded by Laurence Manning Academy 10th-grade student Haley Gottheiner and her mother, Kelly, Hometown Heroes seeks to improve relations between law enforcement and the community through an essay contest in which a local school-aged child nominates an officer.
The essay winner receives a ride to school in a police car, a trophy and breakfast at Shoney's of Manning, while the law enforcement officer featured in the essay is recognized by the Hometown Heroes program.
"Three winners are chosen throughout the year," said Kelly Gottheiner in a release.
The first winner was anonymous, but donated his winnings to James Smith, an LMA student who had a heart transplant in 2016. The law enforcement honoree was Clarendon County Sheriff's Office Chief Dep. Gene Morris. There was no essay contest for the second portion of the 2017 season, with Sheriff Tim Baxley directly nominating three of his officers - Cpl. Kevin Wilson, Sgt. Clay Coners and Maj. Donnie Drose - for saving the life of a young woman who ran into Lake Marion with her vehicle.
“One of the efforts of our organization is to try and encourage and support community relations with law enforcement,” said Kelly Gottheiner at a dinner to honor the dd
"He talks about corn, sunflowers and not to forget people get hurt every year in deer stands," Walker added.
Downer also serves as assistant lay leader at MUMC. He is also on multiple church committees.
"He is a positive role model (who encourages) and (motivates) our youth," Gottheiner said.
Since Walker enjoys farming, the traditional ride to school in a police car was changed to a ride after church in a John Deere tractor. The company donated the use of a tractor for this event, Gottheiner said.'
"During a recognition ceremony at the church, Walker received a trophy topped with a tractor, while Capt. Billy Downer received a framed certificate and applause from the congregation," Gottheiner said.