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Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena, left, congratulates Mike Smith on receiving the Order of the Towman award from American Towman magazine. Since Smith couldn't travel to Maryland to pick up the award, Keena arranged for a ceremony at city hall during the Tuesday evening city council meeting.

City, magazine honor Mike Smith

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Since tow truck owner Mike Smith was unable to travel to Maryland in November to pick up his award, Detroit Lakes Police Chief Kel Keena wanted to make sure he received the ceremony he deserved and "receive the award he is due."

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Keena successfully nominated Smith, owner and operator of Lakes Country Towing, for the Order of the Towman award, courtesy of "American Towman" magazine.

At the Detroit Lakes City Council meeting Tuesday evening, Keena, Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon and State Patrol Captain Bruce Hentges took turns reading the nomination Keena had sent to the magazine.

The Order of the Towman award, as described in the criteria for nominees, is for towmen in the towing industry who have "been dedicated to serving your department, municipality and community with the highest standards."  

In his nomination, Keena included the story of Smith's injury that has brought him much attention in the area.

While voluntarily helping set up an emergency management drill in the fall of 2008, which would be used to train 32 agencies from three counties, a bus Smith had donated for the drill and locked in place had somehow started rolling down an incline.

As it was about to hit his tow truck, Smith tried to jump in the truck and instead was pinned in the door of the cab after the truck hit a tree.

Fire fighter and friend Ryan Swanson was helping Smith at the time and rushed to his rescue. Smith was airlifted to a Fargo hospital and transferred a few days later to Hennepin County Medical in the Twin Cities, where one of his legs was amputated above the knee.

As Hentges finished up the last paragraph of the nomination letter, he added his own words, thanking Smith for his work.

"His attitude hasn't changed since his accident," Hentges said of his willingness to help others. "He puts himself at the same risk as we do."

Between the snow, weather, drunk drivers, and other roadway hazards, "it's very nice to have them there," he said of the tow truck drivers.

Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk then administered the oath that would have been given at the Maryland ceremony, and Smith wife, Julie, pinned the medal on his jacket to a standing ovation in city hall.

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