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Posted on: May 23, 2023

Employees of the Year

The City of Madison honors three dedicated employees each year who show outstanding efforts towards the community they serve.  Join us in congratulating Sergeant Michael Dixon, Police Officer of the Year; Cole Edwards, Firefighter of the Year; and Michelle Dunson, Employee of the Year. 

Employee of the Year 2023_18

(Pictured left to right: Council President, Ranae Bartlett, Sergeant Michael Dixon, Firefighter Cole Edwards, Michelle Dunson, Melissa Gibson, and Mayor Paul Finley.)

Michelle Dunson, Employee of the Year

Michelle is the City’s Deputy Director of Engineering, and she has worked for the City since 2019.   She manages nearly all City infrastructure projects from the initial proposal stage through construction closeout.   She works very closely with other City departments, including Public Works, Recreation, and Planning.  

There are many reasons Michelle was nominated for this award, but it starts with her professional relationship with the City’s consulting engineers, Public Works crews, outside contractors, and utility partners. She is always well prepared for meetings, and she is able to communicate effectively with others through the different phases of construction. She also handles resident concerns with care, compassion, and fantastic follow up.

Michelle shows good judgment when resolving issues in the field and reviewing design plans.  At predetermined checkpoints throughout the design process, she provides thorough plan review identifying utility & drainage conflicts, right-of-way & easement acquisition requirements, constructibility concerns, plus any design course corrections to keep the project on track. Providing these reviews & notes in the early phases of design greatly reduces the need for costly and time-consuming redesign & field revisions during construction.

Michelle has extensive knowledge of engineering concepts, but she is still always learning. She keeps up to date with new products & techniques through periodicals & seminars, and she is comfortable in the field learning from contractors & skilled workers.   

City Engineer Michael Johnson shared that “Michelle is an indispensable part of the Engineering Department, and we are very fortunate to have her on our staff. When met with challenges, she has the courage to ask questions and the resourcefulness to research new solutions.” 

Mayor Paul Finley added that “During our City Engineer transition Michelle was the rock that kept projects and communication going. Her long hours wearing two hats were greatly appreciated and critical to our community success.”

Outside of work, Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband, Nick Sanders, and their dog Shelby, a golden retriever and German Shepherd mix.  She also is close to her sister and her three nieces, as well as a couple of nephews.  She loves fishing and running.  


Sergeant Michael Dixon, Police Officer of the Year

Sgt. Dixon has been a certified officer since 2001, and he has been working for the City since 2018.  He has spent most of his time assigned to the Special Operations Division in the Traffic Unit, and he has additional training as a Traffic Homicide Investigator, Advanced Crash Investigator, and Accident Reconstruction specialist.  

When he took over command of the Traffic Safety Unit earlier this year, he immediately began setting expectations for his unit members and scheduled each of them for advanced training in traffic safety and crash re-construction investigations.  His diligence in preparing his staff for their new responsibilities has led to the successful investigation and closure of a number of reckless driving cases.  

In the past year, he has been an integral part of closing major investigations.  For example, Sergeant Dixon’s vigilance and attention to detail led directly to the arrest of a double homicide suspect last August.  After responding to the area of a reported shooting on Angela Drive, Sgt. Dixon ensured all assistance was on-scene.  He learned that two victims had been shot and killed.  Sgt. Dixon then began a comprehensive search for two suspects that had fled the scene.  During this search he noticed a suspicious vehicle that may have been involved in the shooting.  As he approached the vehicle, he noticed a person emerging from a wooded area nearby and took him into investigative detention.  It was later determined that this subject was the actual shooter of the two victims.  Some discarded clothing was found in the woods where the subject had been.  

In addition, last October, he was instrumental in the capture of a murder suspect out of Chicago.  After a Limestone County investigator working with the FBI asked for drone assistance, Sgt. Dixon immediately went to the scene.  Within eleven minutes, Sgt. Dixon was able to locate the suspect.  Guiding officers and agents to the scene was difficult because he was unable to talk to them directly and had to go through Dispatch, who relayed the information to the Officers and Agents on the ground.  However, they were soon able to surround the suspect and take him into custody without incident. Sgt. Dixon’s quick arrival and deployment of the drone equipment was instrumental in the capture of the fleeing murder suspect and was in keeping with the highest standard of the Madison Police Department.

Police Chief Johnny Gandy says, “Sergeant Dixon’s superior knowledge, dedication, character, and exemplary performance reflect highly upon the Madison Police Department and the City of Madison.  He is an excellent example for all officers to follow and an asset to the Madison Police Department and the citizens you serve.”

Outside of work, Sgt. Dixon is married to his wife, Amanda, and they have three daughters Katelyn, Jessica, and Liana.

Cole Edwards, Firefighter of the Year

Cole has worked for the City since August 2022, and he currently serves as a Firefighter at Station 2 on B-shift.  Before he started working for the City, he was a career firefighter in Tennessee and an Advanced EMT.

His Captain states that Cole has contributed greatly to his team’s success in providing care for Madison’s citizens.  Cole has shown great fireground and EMS delivery abilities, and he consistently demonstrates a positive attitude.  He also strives to better himself and his company through dedication to training and physical fitness. 

Like many firefighters, Cole has a part-time job. On some off-duty days, he works for Rocket City Bin Cleaning. The owner of this company, Mr. Lance Nation, detailed two incidents where Cole, while off duty, took quick actions to save citizens. On one occasion Cole and Mr. Nation were on Rt. 72, when they witnessed a motorcycle crash. The rider became airborne with his helmet flying off as he landed in a travel lane. Cole quickly reached the unconscious rider and assessed his condition. He found him with a compromised airway and was able to safely reposition him to clear his airway allowing the patient to breathe effectively. Cole manually maintained a clear airway and assisted other EMS providers with patient packaging once they arrived. The patient was regaining consciousness as they left the scene.

On a second occasion, Cole was alone on a route and realizing that he smelled smoke he began to look for its source. He soon found significant smoke in a neighborhood and located a house with flames through the roof over the attached garage area.  He also noticed a car in the driveway and quickly stopped to ensure all occupants were safe.  Not able to find a resident outside, he entered the residence, and noticed smoke beginning to show in the living area. He quickly located the female resident taking a shower. She had no knowledge of the fire. Cole helped her to quickly rescue her dog and moved her to safety across the street from the house. He briefed the responding Huntsville Firefighters and made sure the resident was safe and uninjured before continuing his route.

Madison Fire Chief David Bailey attests, “Cole embodies the characteristics of courage and compassion that are so needed in our profession. He is also a good team player. He trains hard with his shift, is an aggressive firefighter; and he is ready at a second’s notice to move to help anyone in need.  One of the characteristics I admire the most about Cole is being humble. I had to go ask Cole about the two incidents detailed here. I had not heard about either incident until weeks later when Mr. Nation dropped by the office to praise Cole and tell me how fortunate Madison is to have him as part of our team.”

Outside of work, Cole enjoys spending time with his wife Erin, who also has a heart for service and works as a Health Care Provider.  Cole even works more on his off time to serve his community as a volunteer firefighter.    

The City of Madison also thanks the Rotary Club of Madison for hosting a reception for the honorees and their families!

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