When the winners of the Orange County Woman of Achievement awards step to the podium tonight, one of them won't quite fit the description.
For the first time in the award's eight-year history, one of the 13 recipients will be a man, Orange County Fire Department Capt. Roger James, 37.
James was nominated for the organization's first mentor award by firefighter Kathleen Lange, 32, whom he had supervised when she was a rookie in 1991.
"The men in the crew had never had a woman working with them before," Lange said. "They didn't know what to expect of me, and I didn't know what to expect of them. He pumped up everybody to support me, and the guys really helped me out. In my evaluation reports from him, it was always: 'Our mission is her success.' "
James said Lange was easy to help because she had "a great attitude" and the drive to succeed.
"It's very humbling to get this award," said James, a member of the Orange County Fire Department for 13 years. "She worked real hard, and I'm getting the honor."
The Orange County Woman of Achievement awards were created by County Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder to spotlight female employees of Orange County for their work and community efforts. Each year, a new committee selects the winners.
"There was some discussion whether the mentor award should go to a man, but we all thought he deserved it," said Emmy Day, a spokeswoman for this year's committee and a spokeswoman for the county Fire Department.
Lange, one of about 20 female firefighters now working for the county, remembered that James had helped her build her upper-body strength because she was under 100 pounds at 5-feet-5. She now weighs 108 pounds, she said.
"He worked day and night with me," Lange said. "If I lifted weights, he lifted weights. If I practiced carrying heavy ladders, he carried ladders too.
"And it's not just me. He's one of those people who helps everyone out, and you just can't pay him back enough," she said.
James said he wanted "to stress that everyone on the crew pitched in to help Kathleen, not only me."
Lange also praised James for being supportive of his wife's work and for coaching his daughters' softball teams. Donna James is a language arts program assistant at O'Neill Elementary School in Mission Viejo, where they reside.
The county's female workers who also will be honored at the Irvine Marriott hotel include: * Management category--Chris McSparren of Library Services; Christina Nereson and Betty O'Rourke of the Health Care Agency; and Patti Schooley of the Environmental Management Agency.
* Supervisory category--Barbara Benich and Kathy Miller of the Probation Department.
* Non-supervisory category--Domnica Falcusan, Social Services Agency; Tina Fernandez, Human Relations Commission; Trudy Papson, Health Care Agency; and Yvonne Shull, Sheriff's Department.
* Community category--Martha Benson, Integrated Waste Management Division; and Angie Soto, Social Services Agency.