A former six-year veteran of the Marion County Sheriff's Office in Ocala, Fla., has joined the Thomaston Police Department.

Elizabeth Hart of West Rockport returned to the Midcoast last November to work on her bachelor's degree in legal studies.

"I love investigative work and helping people," Hart said May 9. She said she was raised knowing that members of law enforcement are the good guys.

After graduating from Camden Hills Regional High School in 2007, Hart moved to Florida to attend the University of Central Florida in Ocala. She said she was drawn to that area because it is known as the horse capital of the world, and horses have always been a part of her life.

During her studies at the police academy in 2010, she served as a reserve officer for the Marion County Sheriff's Office in the civil and bailiff division doing courthouse security and watching high profile trials.

"I love all facets of law," she said, adding that her real passion is criminal justice.

While in Marion County, Hart said, she gained a lot of experience and met many officers who made an impression on her. She noted the Sheriff's Office was pro-community policing, and that is very important to her. "Having connections and relationships with the people in the community is very important," she said.

Hart said that upon her return to Maine she had a newfound appreciation for the slower pace, and wanted to work in a small community.

She said when she met Chief Tim Hoppe he stood out to her. "I knew immediately I wanted to work for him," she said. "He proactively tries to get ahead of the crime, and he is willing to give of his time, no matter how busy he is. He's genuine … that's the type of leader I want to work for."

Hart joins Officers Ian Anderson, Tom Eagar and Noah Stevens, who recently came back from a stint with the Knox County Sheriff's Department. Sgt. Jamie Wilson and Dwight Jones of the Waldoboro Police Department also assist part-time in Thomaston.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.