When Food Service Director Pauline Samb slept on a cot in a locker room at the Washington County jail that nasty February night, she said she was simply doing her job.

The biggest storm of the season was hitting Washington County hard, covering the roads with snow faster than it could be cleared.

Samb knew that if she went home that night, the jail's inmates would go hungry the next day.

"We're responsible for feeding the inmates," Samb said recently, thinking back to the storm. "If I couldn't make it back to work, I wouldn't be able to take care of the job I'm here to do. It was just a part of my job."

While Samb's actions went unnoticed by the inmates, they won the attention of Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton, who awarded her a letter of appreciation at a recent recognition ceremony.

Gail Ennis, another county jail cook, was also recognized for staying at work that evening. Ennis was outside clearing off her car in the worst of the storm, but like Samb, quickly realized she should stay put when the snow kept piling up on her windshield.

"Pauline is a very giving person. She doesn't think twice about it," said Cmdr. Cheri Dexter of the Sheriff's Office. "She actually gets embarrassed when you mention it."

Although spending the night at the jail is not in their job description, Samb and Ennis did it again during a flash blizzard that dumped another 6 inches of snow on parts of the county earlier this month. Instead of sleeping on cots, however, they upgraded to mattresses on the floor of the kitchen.

In addition to Samb and Ennis, more than a dozen other citizens and employees were recognized by the Sheriff's Office for outstanding service. They were:

• James Matzke, who received a Life Saving Award for rescuing a man who was taking scuba diving lessons at Square Lake last summer. Matzke, an instructor for the company giving the lessons, dove into the water and pulled the man to safety.

• Jose Yasis, the general manager at Afton Alps, and ski instructor Kevin Neubauer, who collaborated with former Washington County Deputy Shane Linehan to perform CPR on a 17-year-old boy who experienced cardiac arrest after his first ski run of the season.

• Johnathan Kellogg, who rescued a woman and her dog from Lake Elmo Lake after he spotted the woman in distress holding onto a pier with her dog nearby. The water temperature at the time was in the mid 50 degrees, potentially exposing the woman to hypothermia.

• Deputies James Roush, Joel Legut, Chris Howard, Becky Engel, Craig Olson and Craig Cilley, correctional officer Lois Arends, Deputy crime analyst Rebecca Broome and Jeanine Nelsen, who provides office support.

• The Sheriff's Office dive team.

• 911 dispatchers Christy Clark, Jennifer Bruner and Kandice Rappe-Hutchison, and Sgt. Gwen Martin.

Callie Sacarelos is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune