Dec 10, 2010 12:20 AM by Danielle Lerner

Two local men receive Governor's State Employee Medals of Valor

It's the highest honor California's public servants can receive and now two local men are the proud recipients of the governor's state employee Medal of Valor.

The award honors extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism to save the life of another.

Cal Trans worker Bob MacKenzie and Santa Ynez Fish and Game Warden Jorge Paz received their medals from the governor on Tuesday, but both men say they are just ordinary people who took some time to help someone in need.

It has been barely a year since Bob MacKenzie of Los Osos stumbled across a car accident on Highway 88.

"I looked over at my wife and said babe, 'I go to do my boy scout thing,' and she looked at me and said 'I know,'" MacKenzie said.

The Los Osos man climbed down a 50-foot snowy hillside to reach the battered car below. The driver seemed to be okay but his wife's arm was pinned underneath the vehicle.

"Found an Ugg boot that was in the back of the vehicle, put it over her hand to keep her warm, and then basically stayed with them talking to them, evaluating their states of consciousness," said MacKenzie.

The couple recovered from their injuries and even made it to Tuesday's ceremony. Still MacKenzie says he is no hero.

"I would hope that anybody else in the same situation would do exactly what I did, would offer to assist, would use whatever skills they had to help another person in trouble," said MacKenzie.

In Santa Ynez, Fish and Game Warden Jorge Paz still remembers the moment he spotted a man nearing the edge of the Cold Spring Bridge.

"I was thinking at the time, if he grabs me, he makes the first move, if we go either way there's going to be trouble," Paz said.

After some tense moments, Paz was able to prevent the mentally ill man from committing suicide, and while the 30 year old is humbled by the recognition, Paz attributes his actions to the "Golden Rule."

"I treat others as I would want to be treated," Paz said. "If I was in that situation with that man, whatever problems he may have, mental issues, I would want someone to help me out."

Tuesday's ceremony in Sacramento honored 38 state employees from several different departments. This is the second year in a row a Cal Trans worker stationed in San Luis Obispo has received the Medal of Valor. Last year, the governor honored Brandon Akers for helping a medically-distressed driver.


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