COSTA MESA — With elections less than a month away, a police association embroiled in a campaign battle with one Costa Mesa City Council candidate and several city groups negotiating new contracts, public safety workers' day-to-day contributions can get lost in the mix.
Enter the Costa Mesa Chamber of Commerce and its annual Public Safety Recognition Barbecue on Thursday, an informal, easy-going two-hour lunch at the Orange County Fairgrounds that celebrates police, firefighters and city workers for their day-in, day-out work.
There were no individual recognitions, only a raffle for various prizes, a martial arts demonstration and some loud support and tumbling by the Orange Coast College cheerleaders. Councilwomen Wendy Leece and Katrina Foley also were on hand to show support.
"It reminds me of why I got into the business in the first place," said Costa Mesa Police Capt. Ron Smith.
The menu was simple: burgers, dogs and fajitas.
The scene was a hodgepodge of police officers, firefighters and city employees moving from table to table joking and smiling.
"That's what I like about Costa Mesa; we all work well together," said Officer Jeff Horn, a 12-year veteran. "It's a great opportunity to socialize with people we see in the community and be able to talk person to person. It's positive."
"I think we're fortunate we all get along," he added. "Agencies don't get along together in every city."
Fire Department Capt. Chris Brimhall said he enjoyed seeing and feeling the support of the community.
While city employees were enjoying the food and banter, the event's committee Chairwoman Patty Mason was busy handling the raffle for them all. In between drawings, she summed up what the lunch was all about.
"It's a day to honor them," she said. "They serve and protect."