The San Clemente Exchange Club recognized public safety personnel Geoffrey Coleman and Amber Garcia for their exceptional contributions to San Clemente on Tuesday, Nov. 14, presenting them with the 2024 Firefighter of the Year and Deputy of the Year awards, respectively.
Garcia became the first woman Tuesday to earn the club’s Deputy of the Year Award. Over the past 12 months, she was selected to become a master field training officer (FTO) for personnel in San Clemente and is the newest member of the Targeting, Reduction, Investigative and Prevention (TRIP) team.
She also volunteered to take on a vacant homeless liaison and mental health officer position, among other achievements.
Garcia said after the ceremony that the recognition meant a lot to her, even as she felt she wasn’t doing anything beyond the responsibilities of her job.
“I took on that role to learn a lot more, trying to get ahead and see what we can do here in the community, which is what we were lacking,” she said. “I take all of this really seriously, and I put in tons of effort.”
Capt. Jay Christian, San Clemente’s chief of Police Services, spoke about both Coleman and Garcia.
“It’s important to note that cops and firefighters don’t do their job for recognition,” Christian said. “They are driven by a sense of duty and commitment to public safety, and a genuine desire to help their communities. These professionals choose these demanding and often challenging careers, because they believe in making a difference in people’s lives.”
He continued, saying Garcia embodies the principles of “community-oriented policing,” through her interactions with local residents, businesses and organizations and her leadership that marks her as an advocate for San Clemente.
“Her ambition in community outreach and dealing with quality-of-life concerns and public nuisances have made a significant impact on reducing crime and fostering a sense of unity among our citizens,” Christian said.
Garcia’s “selfless devotion” as an FTO has also promoted the success of deputies new to the city, he added, and Coleman has shown to be a “pillar of strength” through his dedication and perseverance in times of crisis.
Administrative Sgt. Jared Streeter also spoke about Garcia, saying she exemplifies what a deputy sheriff should strive to be. Regarding her accomplishments, Streeter said she totaled 12 misdemeanor arrests, 45 felony arrests and 98 criminal citations over the past 11 months, in addition to successful zero-tolerance enforcement of the North Beach area.
“(Her work) had a huge impact on this area, which prompted a local San Clemente resident to send an email to the City Council and the (Orange County) Sheriff’s Department, stating the North Beach area hadn’t looked this good in nearly 20 years,” Streeter said.
“This accomplishment is a direct result of Amber’s work ethic and her passion for enforcement and providing county and city assistance to (persons experiencing homelessness) who desire it,” Streeter continued.
Orange County Fire Authority Operations Division 3 Chief Cheyne Maule documented Coleman’s recent achievements. After spending 15 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Coleman joined OCFA in 2020, and serves San Clemente as part of Station 50.
Coleman led wildland training over the past year, Maule said, and has mentored new handcrew members that focus on hazardous fuels reduction projects and suppressing wildland fires.
“In every role, be it as a father, a husband, a fire professional, or mentor, Jeff has committed with an unwavering dedication, always striving for excellence and making a difference in the lives of those around him,” Maule said.
Both Coleman and Garcia were able to share their moments of recognition with their families, who had made the trip for Tuesday’s ceremony.
State Assemblymember Laurie Davies and Orange County Fifth District Supervisor Katrina Foley were also present to give certificates of recognition. State Sen. Janet Nguyen sent in a certificate as well, although she could not attend the ceremony.