Wellington Board Picks Top Cop, Top Firefighter Honorees

Wellington’s Public Safety Committee heard a presentation on the nominees for the village’s annual Top Cop and Top Firefighter awards on Wednesday, June 22, voting to bestow the Top Cop honor on Deputy Harold Harper and the Top Firefighter award on Firefighter Shane Armstrong.

Harper and Armstrong will be formally recognized and presented with their awards at the Wednesday, Sept. 21 meeting of the Wellington Village Council.

There were two nominees from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Eli Shaivitz nominated Deputy Harold Harper, while Sgt. James Benedict nominated Agent Nick Holberton.

“We struggle with this every year,” Shaivitz said, “because we have a lot of great deputies. There’s a lot of good going on. It’s tough for us even to bring a few to the forefront. We try to find nominees who have, for the past year, some type of consistent, exemplary work. That’s why these, once again, are some good, good nominations.”

In his nomination letter for Harper, Shaivitz noted that Harper has been the liaison to the Village of Wellington since 2020, and with the PBSO since 2004. Harper is responsible for staffing the annual Wellington Holiday Parade, attending council meetings, working with Neighborhood Watch groups, staffing events and more.

In Benedict’s nomination letter, he explained that Holberton is a senior agent on the Street Team, who has worked more than 200 cases, with 27 misdemeanor arrests and 36 felony arrests, including 20 drug arrests with seizures.

Notably, Holberton was tasked with an investigative case involving a stolen transformer. Holberton found the suspect, contacted the suspect, and when something didn’t feel right, investigated further. Because Holberton followed his instincts, he discovered that the suspect did not commit a crime.

Committee Member Jacqueline Hutman nominated Harper.

“He’s done a phenomenal job for the Village of Wellington. Dedicated, hardworking, easygoing and really, really the consummate professional,” she said.

Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue District Chief Olavarria deferred to his battalion chiefs for recommendations, noting that all three nominations — Firefighter Shane Armstrong, Lt. Jason Haythorn and Capt. Matt Willhite — are all good choices.

Armstrong was nominated by Battalion Chief Ken Wooldridge for his volunteer work on the Peer Support Team, debriefing firefighters after critical incidents and tough calls. Wooldridge also nominated Haythorn for his work with the Hurricane Command Team and as a liaison to the Village of Wellington. The Station 20 crew nominated Willhite, who has been with PBCFR for 26 years.

Retired PBCFR Battalion Chief Michael Arena, who is on the committee, abstained from voting when the committee chose Armstrong for the honor.

Committee Member Michael Weil said that it was a difficult decision.

“I know first responders see amazingly horrible things day in and day out, and the fact that he [Armstrong] seems to take the time to help those people after the ambulances go away, and it’s late at night, I think that just says amazing things about their character,” Weil said.

In other business:

• The committee chose Mohammad Janaid Akther as the committee’s new chair and Jacqueline Hutman as the new vice chair.

• At the next Neighborhood Watch Zoom seminar, on July 27, there will be a representative from Animal Care & Control speaking. The Aug. 24 Zoom seminar will feature a representative from Florida Poison Control. Those interested in attending can register at www.wellingtonfl.gov/neighborhoodwatch.

• As hurricane season continues, storm resources and information are available on the village’s web site at www.wellingtonfl.gov.

• The GoWellington app was recently launched, connecting residents to services in the community. Visit www.wellingtonfl.gov/1001/GoWellington-App to learn more.

• Public Safety Committee meetings take place quarterly on the second Wednesday of the month. The next meeting will be Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 6:30 p.m.