Wellington’s council on Tuesday night honored two exceptional first responders with the annual Top Cop and Top Firefighter awards.
Taking home this year’s recognition: Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Detective Tim Barbusio, and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Cecelia Eaton.
Barbusio and Eaton were nominated by colleagues and selected by Wellington’s Public Safety Committee, which made the final call on recipients in June.
Barbusio became a law enforcement officer 35 years ago in Pennsylvania, when he was just 19 years old, said PBSO District 8 Capt. Nichole Addazio.
He moved to Florida to work for the Lake Worth Police Department, and then joined PBSO when Lake Worth PD was absorbed into that agency, she said.
Three years ago, Barbusio moved to Wellington’s PBSO district to work as a detective, Addazio said.
Over the years, Barbusio’s input has proved critical to the formation of Florida laws, in addition to his work protecting the community, she said.
Barbusio’s son, Michael, is a deputy in PBSO’s District 8. Addazio said she recently asked Michael Barbusio about his career goals.
“Without hesitation, he said his goal is to sit in his father’s chair one day in the Wellington district detective bureau,” Addazio said.
Detective Barbusio thanked the council for the honor.
“I love being out here in Wellington after going 32 years in Lake Worth,” he said. “It’s quite a change, but I’m enjoying.” He added, laughing, “There’s so many places to eat,” noting he was often stuck with convenience store food working midnight shifts in Lake Worth.
Barbusio also thanked his wife, Mariann, for her support throughout the years. “While I was in Miami looking through shipping containers for stolen cars, she was taking them (their children) to church every Sunday,” Barbusio said.
The council praised Barbusio for his decades of service to Palm Beach County and his recent service to Wellington.
“Thank you for your service, and thank you for making us feel like the safest people in Palm Beach County, for sure,” Mayor Anne Gerwig said.
With all of the talented law enforcement officers in Wellington, the achievement is even more significant, said Councilman Michael Drahos.
“I love the legacy aspect of this,” he said. “I hope that your son’s up here in couple years getting this award as well.”
Eaton began her career in the fire service at age 15, as a volunteer fire fighter in her hometown in Peru, said recently retired Battalion Chief Kenny Wooldridge, who nominated Eaton for the award.
Her family moved to the U.S. in the 1990s, and when Eaton arrived at age 21, she did not speak English, Wooldridge said.
“She knew one thing: She knew she wanted to be a firefighter,” he said.
Eaton took English classes and practiced her newfound language skills while working as a blackjack dealer on casino cruises, Wooldridge said.
When she began her career with Palm Beach County Fire Rescue in the early 2000s, she quickly began working in special operations, mastering all of the disciplines and climbing to her position as captain, Wooldridge said. She now works in training and safety.
“I’m very thankful and humbled to receive this award,” Eaton said.
She had no idea that her first day on the job would lead to where she is now, she said. “I won the lottery, and I didn’t even know it,” Eaton said.
She thanked the crew members who work with her on the C shift out of Station 30, which is on Stribling Way just east of Equestrian Trails Elementary School.
“Working with these young, smart and ethical guys has made my job so easy,” Eaton said, adding, “This award doesn’t belong just to me. This award is presented to me because of them. We are a wonderful team.”
The council members were impressed by Eaton’s story.
“I want to say, special operations, it’s incredible,” Gerwig said. She and other council members earlier this year experienced what it was like to be a firefighter for a day with officials from throughout Palm Beach County.
“We learned a little bit of what you go through,” Gerwig said, adding that it was an incredible experience that gave her a new appreciation for the strength, resiliency and talent of Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews.
“You feel protected,” Gerwig said. “We feel strengthened. We feel that our needs are met in a way that is so unique.”
“As a father of daughters, what you have done and what you have achieved tells all the young girls everywhere that everything is possible,” Councilman John McGovern said.
BELOW: Read the nomination letters for Wellington’s Top Cop and Top Firefighter
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