At the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) meeting Wednesday in Havana, two employees received recognition from outside organizations.
Shikar-Safari Club International honored Officer Marc Shea, of Naples, as its Officer of the Year. The Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc. paid tribute to Pat Harrell, of Tallahassee, with a Beacon of Light award.
“Shea is dedicated and takes pride in his role as an FWC officer,” said Capt. Jayson Horadam, one of Shea’s supervisors. “The fact that he routinely answers his personal cell phone with ‘fishing capital of the world!’ shows his inherent dedication to the FWC and its mission.”
Shikar-Safari Club International is a conservation-based organization that presents awards annually to wildlife law enforcement officers in all states, provinces and territories in the United States and Canada. The annual award honors a state officer whose efforts show outstanding performance and achievement among sworn fish and wildlife law enforcement personnel.
“Shea is an outstanding example of a wildlife officer,” said Jim Harrison, representative for the club. “I am delighted and proud that the state of Florida is maintaining this caliber of individuals working for Florida’s wildlife.”
Shea’s work certainly qualifies him for the award. The 39-year-old has worked in the FWC’s South Region since 2007 and was named FWC’s 2011 Officer of the Year earlier this year. Shea not only excels in the traditional enforcement aspects of his role by knowing the laws and the importance of following them – he demonstrates commitment to reaching out to inform the public about those laws.
“Shea has made numerous cases aboard the FWC’s 32-foot Fincat vessel, used his personal metal detector to gather valuable evidence for several cases, coordinated a multiagency effort targeting gill-net operations, led a bear case investigation and currently works as a field training officer,” said Horadam.
However, it is Shea’s commitment to helping the public understand the importance of natural resource protection that makes him stand out.
Shea values proactive education and interaction with the public. He frequently gives presentations to local stakeholder groups, like the Friends of Tigertail Beach, Snooker Fishing Club of Imperial Wilderness and Collier County Sheriff’s Office Build-a-Boat Program.
He attends public speaking events and often mans informational booths at the Collier County Fair, Naples Boat Show, FWC fishing clinics and the Department of Environmental Protection’s “Dive into Oceans Days.”
“Shea recognizes the value of conveying FWC’s primary missions and goals to the public,” said Col. Jim Brown, director of the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement. “Doing so is often the key to protecting Florida’s resources and people.”
Shea has also built strong relationships with local hunters, anglers, boaters and hikers, and other law enforcement officers from different agencies. His actions and attitude foster a sense of community in his Collier County patrol area.
In his free time, Shea volunteers for the Junior ROTC program at Naples High School. He teaches the students outdoor survival and conservation skills related to Florida wildlife and habitats. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and trail hiking with his wife and their Labrador retrievers.
Also recognized at the meeting was Pat Harrell, boating access coordinator for the FWC.
The Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County Inc. gave her a Marine Advocate of the Year Award, one of its Beacon of Light awards.
“The award is presented to an individual, group or organization whose work supports, promotes and protects the sound growth of the marine industry in Palm Beach County for the benefit and education of the boating public and the environment,” said John Sprague, director of governmental affairs for the association.
Harrell’s boating-access duties include coordinating boat ramp repair and overseeing funds-distribution to local governments from the Florida Boating Improvement Program and the Florida Boating Infrastructure Grant Program. This helps increase boating access to the waters of the state and benefits the communities economically.
“Pat’s enthusiasm and passion for her job have made her an instrumental leader,” Maj. Jack Daugherty, head of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways section, said of Harrell. “Unfortunately, the average boater does not know the benefits gained through her diligence.”
While Harrell’s work is often done behind the scenes, her dedication to improving boating access has introduced countless people to the boating lifestyle and put people in the water in Palm Beach County.
“By getting people out on the water, Pat has truly shown unfailing support to Palm Beach County’s marine industries,” Sprague said.