The inaugural Spirit of Excellence Award was bestowed on a heroic duo, recently featured in a Dickinson Press article for their deeds in saving the life of a woman and child following a vehicle accident, at a ceremony in Dickinson.

The award, which is given to recognize the contributions of individuals or groups who demonstrate leadership, service, innovation, stewardship, or perform acts as good Samaritans within Stark County, was given to Tom Tessier and Jack Schaff for their deeds.

At the Stark County Sheriff’s Office, before an audience of 22 friends and family members, the good Samaritans were surprised to receive the honor — which was kept a secret until they walked in with smiles. The jig was up and each was honored with a special presentation and trophy.

While the adoring crowd called them “heroes,” the duo disagreed.

“We just stopped and helped somebody who was in trouble. That’s not being a hero, that just being from North Dakota,” Schaff said.

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According to Tessier, the real heroes were the first responders who day in and day out answered the calls of those in need. In his words, “They do this on a regular basis.”

Sheriff Cory Lee spoke to the gathered crowd and explained the detailed selection process that candidates for the award are unknowingly undertaking when they are submitted for the award by a friend, co-worker, community or family member. The process involves a blind selection, to prevent any favoritism.

The Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award nominators will be notified of the nomination’s status after the nominations have been reviewed and the award recipient has been selected.

Nominees who are not selected to receive a Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award will be carried over to the following bi-monthly awards, so the pool grows larger with each bi-monthly selection process.

Lee, who serves on the committee as the tie breaking vote if needed, said that the judges were the mayors of Belfield, Dickinson, Gladstone, Richardton, South Heart and Taylor.

The brain of the award, Julie Obrigewitsch, read out loud the nomination and the donated gifts.

Recipients of the award receive a plaque/trophy, a ceremony and an array of donated gifts from local businesses within the area.

Donations from Belfield’s The Cup and Cake; Dickinson’s Badlands Big Sticks, Blue 42, Cashwise, Coca-Cola, Cory White, Designs by Jessina, Family Fare, Four Seasons Trophies, Pizza Ranch, Quality Quick Print, Shetler’s Construction and Winn Construction; Gladstone’s Little Town Soy Candle Co. and Written in Frosting; Richardton’s Suzy’s Stash; South Heart’s I Don’t Know Bar and Taylor’s Sit-N-Bull Bar were among those presented to Tessier and Schaff.

“When you get to a vehicle and there’s a baby hanging upside down in their car seat, everything just falls into place. You don't let that go by,” Tessier said.

The next round of nominations are underway with any individual or group, whose performance and actions promote, reinforce, or exemplify the Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award’s vision and mission can be submitted by anyone and must be submitted on behalf of a resident or group from Stark County, North Dakota.

Nomination forms are available by emailing, Stark County Spirit of Excellence Award Facebook page,, and at two locations in each of the communities in Stark County, North Dakota.