Of the Year Awards, 2024

Claudia Garcia, Civilian Employee of the Year 

Executive Assistant Claudia Garcia consistently goes above and beyond her duties, providing guidance, scheduling meetings, and assisting with daily tasks. She represents the division with unparalleled customer service and carefully organizes agenda items for the Executive Leadership Team. Claudia facilitates Town Hall meetings, Shared Purpose Council, and Community Partnership Council meetings with meticulous attention to detail. 

Because of her willingness to always be a team player, the Civilian Employee of the Year is Claudia Garcia 

Tayelegn Abebe, Public Safety Officer of the Year

Senior Public Safety Officer Tayelegn Abebe goes above and beyond for employees, patients, and visitors, exemplified by his compassionate assistance to a claustrophobic patient. He collaborates effectively with his peers, inspiring and assisting them in various tasks. His quick decision-making and actions, such as safely transporting a palliative care patient. He diligently reports and addresses hallway obstructions and near misses, enhancing campus safety.   

Because of his exceptional customer service, teamwork, and reliability, Senior Public Safety Officer Tayelegn Abebe is the Public Safety Officer of the year

Matt Cardenas, Investigator of the Year

Senior Detective Matt Cardenas led the investigation of vandalism targeting property of an employee at MD Anderson. The man and his wife were victims of a series of criminal mischief incidents. Despite the residence of the suspect, Detective Cardenas discovered travel records linking him to the crimes. He tirelessly pursued investigative leads, collaborating with multiple agencies to gather evidence. After a thorough investigation, Cardenas obtained a felony arrest warrant for the suspect, leading to his apprehension in Florida. Additionally Detective Cardenas pursued a separate investigation resulting in additional charges.  

Because of his valuable contributions to this high-profile case, Senior Detective Matt Cardenas is Investigator of the Year.  

Angel Sanders, Telecommunicator of the Year 

Lead Police Telecommunicator Angel Sanders handles radio communications professionally, even during busy periods, showcasing excellence communication skills and a willingness to help whenever needed. She exhibits an outstanding attitude and dedication to assisting division employees and the community we serve.   

Because of her ability to ensure a successful shift by being proactive in her thoughts and actions, Lead Police Telecommunicator Angel Sanders is the Telecommunicator of the Year.

Jaylin Thornton, Police Officer of the Year

Officer Jaylin Thornton made significant contributions to the division within just two years of service. He serves as a Field Training Officer, training over ten new officers and laterals, ensuring they perform well in their roles. Additionally his commitment to continuous learning is evident through his various roles as an ALERRT Instructor, Basic TCOLE Instructor, Firearms Instructor, and member of the UT System Rapid Response Team. 

Because of his work ethic, dedication to bringing a positive energy and willingness to assist and keeping our community safe, Officer Jaylin Thornton is Police Officer of the Year. 

Terri Johnson, Rookie of the Year

Officer Terri Johnson demonstrates exceptional dedication, professionalism, and a positive attitude. She willingly takes on additional responsibilities, assists during staffing shortages, and volunteers for events. She uses a proactive approach to detaining offenders and ensuring the community's well-being. Terri assists colleagues and supervisors in arrests, highlighting her commitment to serving the community. 

Because of her success in the application of her training, the Rookie of the Year is Officer Terri Johnson 

Donnia Thompson, Supervisor of the Year

Public Safety Supervisor Donnia Thompson is described as extremely patient, competent, caring, respectful, and professional. She is very organized and always willing to answer questions for Public Safety Officers. Donnia ensures that all Public Safety Officers she supervises are comfortable with their ability to excel at their posts while also working with building managers to meet building needs. 

Because of her consistent application of directives and dedication to improving her team members' skills, the Supervisor of the Year is Public Safety Supervisor Donnia Thompson 

Wayne Smith, Leader of the Year

Captain Wayne Smith is the co-creator of the UT System Police's Peer Support Program securing significant support and funding for its establishment. He manages the operations of the campus in Bastrop, overseeing emergency management, sensitive research operations, and natural disaster response. He also plays a crucial role in fire mitigation efforts and provides critical incident training to enhance preparedness and response capabilities.   

Because of his exemplary leadership and dedication to safety, the Leader of the Year is Captain Wayne Smith.