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Jefferson Award Winner, January 2019: Steve Fitzsimmons

MADISON (WKOW) — Steve Fitzsimmons has been connecting with Madison police for years.

It all started four years ago, as he took over the neighborhood watch in Midvale Heights, where he’s lived for 20 years.

He immediately reached out to Police Chief Mike Koval.

“When I first took office, I started getting emails from Steve, who was talking about starting a grassroots movement to assist the police in solving crimes and talking about neighborhood watch initiatives. I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy is persistent,” says Chief Koval.

That persistence paid off.

The neighborhood watch, now 830 members strong, has transformed into an educational outlet, called the Good Neighbor Project, connecting police and community members.

“We meet once a month and every meeting we learn something beneficial,” says Steve. “We knock down those barriers in our meeting, so people become more familiar, more comfortable reaching out for help.”

It’s that connection with officers that inspired Steve to want to do more.

He came up with an idea to raise money for families of fallen officers, through the Law Enforcement Memorial License Plate.

But first, he had to change the law.

“I said, ‘Well isn’t that nice, good for you,” says Chief Koval. “I sort of patted him proverbially on the head and said, ‘You go for it tiger, because I just don’t know what you’re going to be able to get in terms of support during these volatile times in the world of politics.”

For two years, Steve spoke at public hearings, drafted a bill and got support.

He says, “You have to work with the Legislature and you have to work with the Senate and you have to work with the governor to change the law to allow the license plate to be a fundraiser for the Law Enforcement Memorial.”

His bill passed unanimously and the governor signed it into law.

Now, when you buy the special plates, a $25 donation goes directly to the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

“They raised $17,200 in the first six months,” says Steve. “That’s four times more than they raised all year.”

“To see something of that magnitude take place in the state of Wisconsin, it was literally defying all odds and defying gravity,” says Chief Koval. “I’m very grateful to have a friend like him.”

For Steve, the message learned is, “One person can change the world.”

Amber Noggle

Anchor, 27 News at 5, 6 and 10

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