For the first time, we’re hearing from the Jacksonville Beach police officer who was just selected as a Hyundai Hometown Hero.
On Wednesday, we told you Officer Thomas Harper was picked as the winner in the first responder category.
News4JAX spoke with Harper about what the nomination and win mean to him. He said it’s beyond words.
“I’m still in shock. I’m honored. I’m humbled. I can’t express my appreciation enough,” he said. “I’m still surprised.”
The police officer is the winner of a new Hyundai Tucson SUV.
Harper’s colleagues said that he’s transformed lives since joining the department four years ago and that he’s not afraid to walk into danger.
He won the Meritorious Service Award after potentially saving a person’s life and the Commendation Award for stopping a domestic dispute from getting worse.
“I love being a public servant. I love helping people. I truly think it’s something that I’m passionate about. When I go home at night, I know that I’ve potentially made a difference in someone’s life,” Harper said. “I’m very proud of my job, and there’s nothing else I can see myself doing.”
It’s his brave actions that first caught the eye of Rebecca Harris. She nominated him and now-volunteers with the department. In her submission, she said, “Thomas never hesitates to go directly toward the threat. Thomas has shown over and over that he is truly committed to giving his life to keep his community safe.”
“When I found she nominated me, I couldn’t believe it. She’s been a good friend of mine. Met through work, and she’s always been there for me,” Harper said. “This was above and beyond.”
Standing tall at 6-foot-3, Harper said he’s going to appreciate having the extra legroom in his new vehicle.
“I’ve had a little four-door sedan for a while. Being a tall person, it’s hard to get in and out of that thing,” he said. “I’m a big mountain biker and outdoor person, so it’s going to be nice to have a bigger car with more space.”
In his spare time, he volunteers with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and he said his work in the community doesn’t stop when he takes off his vest.
It’s a job he’s always dreamed of, and he’s grateful to be recognized.
“We don’t expect gratitude, we don’t expect a pat on the back or anything like that,” Harper said. “We do it because we like the job and people need help, and it’s just fantastic to see that there’s a community that’s out there that supports us.”
Thomas was among 174 nominees in the first responder category and received nearly 400 votes. He’s scheduled to receive his new SUV at the end of the month, and we’ll be there to show you when it happens.