The Wellington Village Council presented its annual Top Cop and Top Firefighter awards on Wednesday, Sept. 21, honoring Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Harold Harper and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Capt. Shane Armstrong with these prestigious awards.
Wellington’s Public Safety Committee chose the winners from among this year’s nominees in June, setting up this week’s meeting, which had a celebratory atmosphere.
PBSO Capt. Rolando Silva took to the floor first, recalling when he first met Harper many years ago.
“I noticed his talent back then,” Silva said. “And we were able to hire him in the City of Lake Worth.”
When the opportunity came to bring Harper to Wellington, he didn’t hesitate. Harper took on the community-facing position previously held by PBSO Deputy Scott Poritz, who was honored as Wellington’s Top Cop in 2020.
“I knew those would be some hard shoes to fill, and I knew the right man,” Silva said. “I knew we had the right person for the job, and that was going to be Deputy Harper.”
PBSO Lt. Eli Shaivitz pointed out that Harper has a full calendar, focusing on a variety of assignments, but especially high-profile events in Wellington, such as the Wellington Holiday Parade, Fourth of July event and the Fall Festival.
Shaivitz nominated Harper for the award and was proud to have him chosen for this recognition.
Harper thanked the village for the honor.
“To say the least, I’m humbled. To me, it’s just something that I do,” Harper said. “All I can say is that every single person I’ve met has made it easy for me to succeed by providing the tools, and with everybody having the same mission… I’m just humbled and thankful to be a part of what you guys have built here.”
As the council members congratulated Harper, Vice Mayor Michael Drahos took the opportunity to share his appreciation.
“I get to say publicly how awesome I think you are at your job,” he said. “You’re the perfect choice for this, because that is symbolic of your entire unit in Wellington.”
Councilman John McGovern told Harper that he knows that residents of Wellington are safer when he is around.
“You truly are excellence personified for the PBSO. You are what this award is supposed to do,” McGovern said.
When it was time to introduce Armstrong, PBCFR District Chief Phillip Olavarria noted Armstrong’s work on the Peer Support Team.
“He is the first one to be contacted when one of our own is having a crisis or just needs to talk to someone who understands,” Olavarria said. “First responders see many horrific things throughout their careers, and it is crucial that we talk about it with someone who can understand what we are going through.”
Battalion Chief Ken Wooldridge described Armstrong as someone with honesty, integrity and humility.
“I think day in, day out, he’s one of the hardest working captains I have in Battalion 2,” said Wooldridge, who also described Armstrong as “a man of few words.”
As Armstrong received his award, he thanked the council and PBCFR.
“The only thing I would need to say is, I don’t need a name, and I don’t need a face, because Station 25 over here is always here for you,” Armstrong said. “It’s the guys there that this would go to. That whole station comes out every day and does their work for you guys… I appreciate this and accept this on their behalf.”
Councilman Michael Napoleone pointed out to Armstrong that it shows great character to give credit to the team, but this award goes to him.
“Sometimes, everyone’s got to be singled out. Tonight is your night to be singled out,” Napoleone said. “We appreciate everything you do. You’re deserving of this award.”
Armstrong is also a PBCFR chaplain, in addition to his work on peer counseling.
“When the residents have a crisis, we go to fire-rescue and ask them to help us. So, it means a lot that when your colleagues have a crisis, they come to you and ask for you to help them,” Drahos said.
Mayor Anne Gerwig thanked both Armstrong and Harper, stressing that everyone works together as a team.
“We always want to have your back,” she said. “Along with an open line of communication, so that we can always do what’s best for our residents by doing what’s best for you.”