The Rotary Club of Murrieta awarded its annual Vocational Service Awards to a Murrieta Fire Department engineer and paramedic, a Murrieta Police Department officer and a Murrieta Valley Unified School District teacher during a luncheon held Monday, Jan. 30.
The three individuals – engineer and paramedic Vincent “Vinnie” Cicconi, Cpl. Matt Mozingo and Col. Eugene Matera of Vista Murrieta High School – were nominated by their respective agencies for their distinguished vocational and community service. The awards luncheon was held at the Rancho Springs Medical Center and was attended by Murrieta elected officials, as well as community and business leaders. Richie’s Diner catered the event.
“It is a privilege to be here honoring citizens who care,” Murrieta Mayor Rick Gibbs said.
“The Rotary Club is honored to recognize these upstanding citizens who through their work are making huge contributions to our community,” Mike Stromsoe, Murrieta Rotary club president, said. “These individuals exemplify the standards of Rotary, including ‘Service Above Self’ and the Four Way Test which stresses integrity and fairness while building goodwill and better friendships.”
Murrieta Fire Chief Scott Ferguson and Battalion Chief Steve Kean presented Cicconi as the Firefighter of the Year. “He is fast and efficient and works on so many different projects. I admire him so much I named my dog after him,” Kean quipped.
Cicconi joined the Murrieta Fire Department in 2009, moving from Cal Fire. He helped with a complete makeover of the department’s policy manuals and maintains them. Cicconi is active on numerous department committees, including training, mobile care services, Wefit, policy and continuous quality improvement and accreditation. He is considered a model engineer who mentors aspiring engineers.
“Vinnie had to take some time off due to the premature birth of his twins,” Kean said. “So he missed the captain’s test. But I’m sure he will make it.”
“I like being behind the scenes doing what I can,” Cicconi said. He thanked the chiefs and the department and shared the credit with his wife, Natalie.
Murrieta Police Chief Sean Hadden presented the Police Officer of the Year Award to Mozingo. “Matt is an experienced investigator who cares about the community he serves,” Hadden said.
Mozingo has worked in law enforcement for 19 years and with Murrieta’s police force for 11 years. He is currently in juvenile investigations. He is a member of the Murrieta Youth Accountability Team for delinquent at-risk youth and runs the Southwest Valley Youth Court program, an alternative to the traditional justice system for first-time juvenile offenders. The program has a 99 percent success rate. Mozingo developed and runs the department’s Citizen’s Police Academy, a 12-week program designed to increase the public’s understanding of police department operations. The seventh program starts in March.
“I’m just excited about this, and I give credit to my wife, too, but she wouldn’t appreciate me calling her up here,” Mozingo said.
MVUSD Superintendent Patrick Kelly and Vista Murrieta High School Principal Mick Wager presented the Teacher of the Year award to Matera.
“We have programs in academics, arts and activities, but one program stands out year after year,” Kelly said. “The integrity of this man and his family has impacted thousands of students throughout the years.” He has been in education since 1999.
The MVUSD honoree served in the U.S. Air Force on active duty for 20 years and another five years in the Air Force Reserves. Matera started the Air Force ROTC program at Vista Murrieta in 2009, and it now has 265 cadets participating. He serves as commanding officer of the ROTC program and as senior instructor of aerospace engineering. Matera’s program has been named the JROTC Distinguished Service Award with Merit by the U.S. Air Force for four years running.
The Air Force ROTC group serves annually at the Murrieta Rotary Field of Honor as well as a number of other school and community events and activities. They march in the annual Veterans Day parade. The group also created a permanent lighted flag monument and planter at Vista Murrieta in honor of their graduates who are serving in the military.
“Colonel Matera built this program from zero students to 90 to almost 300 every year,” Wager said. “He operates a school within a school, giving kids a place to belong and to learn to lead and serve.” The organization was recently complimented by a national inspector who ranked Vista Murrieta’s Air Force ROTC “among the top five in the nation.”
“What an honor and surprise,” Matera said. “Is there anything more meaningful in the world than a service award? The support we get – from the school district, the administration and faculty and the people in the community – really makes a difference. Thanks to you all.” Matera called his wife Mary and daughter Angela to the stage, thanking them publicly for their patience, love and support throughout the years. Matera is retiring in June 2017.
The keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Nirmia Flores from the University of Redlands whose topic was “To Be or Not To Be? A Question on Integrity.”
The Rotary Club of Murrieta was chartered April 28, 1992. The club is involved in many international and community projects, in cooperation with Rotary International, which has as its theme “Service Above Self” Club meetings are held Mondays excepting holidays at noon at Richie’s Diner in Murrieta.