Public Safety Committee Picks Top Cop And Top Firefighter

The Wellington Municipal Complex.

Wellington’s Top Cop and Top Firefighter for 2023 include a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office detective credited with an innovative change in how booking photos are updated, as well as the first female with Peruvian roots to work as a Palm Beach County firefighter.

PBSO Detective Tim Barbusio and Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue Capt. Cecilia Eaton were awarded the designations with a vote of the village’s Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, June 14. They will be formally honored during a Wellington Village Council meeting in September.

“Congratulations,” Committee Chair Mohammad Junaid Akther said after the vote. “Thanks very much for keeping us safe.”

Barbusio has served for more than 35 years, including the last three in the agency’s Wellington district, according to his nomination by Sgt. Michael Donovan. In 2022, he initiated 65 long-term financial cases, including one involving a bail-bond scam with victims across the country. He “continually carries the heaviest caseload of the detectives in his unit” with a “true passion for investigative excellence,” Donovan wrote.

Earlier in his career, Barbusio helped initiate a change that affected police agencies statewide. He discovered that booking photos were taken only when a criminal entered a correctional facility, and pushed for photos when they were exiting, sometimes decades later. The updated photos helped identify and catch repeat offenders.

The other finalist was PBSO Deputy Jeff Taschner, who earned praise for traffic work. From the start of 2022 until May 2023, Taschner stopped more than 1,550 vehicles and issued 2,135 citations.

Eaton came to Wellington by way of Peru, where she grew up and worked at a volunteer fire station from age 15. She overcame traditional barriers against females spending the night in the firehouse, and in her first night there never got to sleep because of a large movie-theater fire and extended brush fire. She found an occupation she loved. “Her story is quite extraordinary,” wrote Battalion Chief Kenneth Wooldridge in his nomination letter.

Unrest and terrorism in Peru led her family to emigrate to the United States. Eaton learned English while dealing blackjack on cruise ships.

Eaton began work as a Palm Beach County firefighter in 2001, reaching the rank of captain by 2019. A wife and mother of two, she has been at the forefront of efforts to recruit promising candidates, including women.

“One thing Cecilla has done as a company officer is to take a personal interest in caring for the elderly that we run calls on, oftentimes following up with their children or other family members to assure they receive follow-up and attention,” Wooldridge wrote.

Another finalist for top firefighter was Lt. Jason Haythorn, who has worked in Wellington for several years, drawing notice for his performance in challenging calls and disasters, as well as mentoring younger colleagues.

Meanwhile, a report to the committee reviewed crime statistics largely discussed in other village meetings, though PBSO Lt. Robert Humphrey did note something about which residents might be curious. He said blue postal boxes recently have been removed from three Wellington locations because they were being targeted by organized gangs for mail theft.

Attempts to head off the thefts proved challenging, so working with postal authorities and others, officials decided to take the boxes out.

“The boxes aren’t there, so the crime can’t be committed,” Humphrey said.

Committee Member Brad Johnson asked, “So are the boxes coming back, or not?”

“Not at this time,” Humphrey said.

It might take away a convenient option for someone to drop off mail, but given the theft risks, he said, it might be best to use other means of delivery, such as bringing outgoing mail to a more secure postal facility.

In other action, the panel heard reminders that while fireworks will abound on the Fourth of July, they are not allowed in the village’s Equestrian Preserve Area.

Among other committee business, Akther was re-elected as the committee’s chair, with Jacqueline Hutman also returning as vice chair.