Newly appointed Assistant Chief Martin Andrews has just made Columbus history by becoming the first black person ever to rise to the position at the Columbus Fire Department. The 50-year-old Columbus native has wanted to be a fireman since he was a child. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in fire administration from the University of Memphis, and a Master of Science degree in Executive Fire Ground Leadership from Grand Canyon University. He has spent 25 years and half his life at the CFD, where he started as a firefighter in 1987. He was promoted to Fire Engineer in 1991, then Fire Captain in 1996 and to Battalion Chief in 2010. As Asst. Chief, Andrews is responsible for making sure fire department policies are enforced, maintaining the station, fielding complaints, personnel matters, and taking the Chief’s office when he is unavailable. In addition to his duties at CFD, Andrews is an adjunct instructor at Mississippi University for Women, where he teaches five fire service classes to upcoming firefighters and emergency responders.
Where did you grow up and go to school? “I’ve been in Columbus all my life. I went to Caldwell High School, graduating class of 1981, and used to be a little basketball star. I played under Coach Evans Page and played forward. In college I was a member of the Mississippi State University band for three years and played the Tuba. I loved that tuba and still play sometimes. I fell into that instrument because I was kinda tall and skinny at the time and they needed bigger guys for it. I fell in love and it was pretty easy to play.”
What made you decide to become a fireman? “It was an ambition I had since I was a child. I always told my mom I wanted to be a firefighter. I saw the trucks come by and saw them in parades and I liked that they helped people. I wanted to help people as much as I could too. When I grew up, my mom was a big part of (me becoming a fireman). When I tried out the first time, I passed the physical but failed the written test. My mom encouraged me to try again, and I passed. I could not have done it without her support.”
Do you have a family? I have a wife, Jackie, and three kids: Brittnee who is 21 and an education major at University of Southern Mississippi; Marlon who is 27 and an LPN at Dr. Buckley and Turner’s office; and Greg who is 19 and goes to East Mississippi Community College where he majors in accounting. The two youngest still live at home.
What made you want to shift from firefighting to being in more of a supervisory/ teaching role? “It was always my desire to be the best I could be. I wanted to become chief since my first day and still do. It’s my goal to be the best I can be and to do my part. It’s a gratifying job, it really is. My job is needed in order for the firefighters to do their jobs — the administration has to be done. It’s what makes the fire department run efficiently. You always have that hunger and desire when you see something that needs doing, to do it yourself and I miss being the one on the ground — oh yes. It’s easier to do it than to tell someone to do it, but I’m leaving the burning buildings to the younger guys now.”
What is your favorite part (or parts) of your job? “Community service. I love going out and meeting the public and giving back.”
Least favorite? “Probably disciplining people… it’s part of my job to correct action with personnel to benefit the department and citizens of the town. Sometimes terminations, cutbacks, and tough decisions have to be made. I’m part of that process. Also seeing someone lose their home — even if they have insurance, there are some things you can’t replace.”
What kind of hobbies or activities do you do outside of work? “I like walking, I play basketball and every once in a while I like reading. Mostly I read fire materials… some suspense.”
What did your parents/family think of you becoming a firefighter? “They loved it. My mom was very instrumental in getting me to that point. I was the youngest kid of seven and she was 47 when she had me. It was a good opportunity for me to stay in Mississippi and make a good living and a difference. My dad was very supportive too… he wanted me to live up to my full potential.”
What have you learned in the 25 years you have been at the Department? “If you will take care of the people that you work with, they will take care of and respect you. Also, good will always come to you if you try to do the right thing.” Any life lessons or advice for anyone interested in pursuing the career? “We are always looking for good people. Being a firefighter is a very exciting, demanding and rewarding job.”
Anything else you’d like to add? “I just want to thank the people that support me. The Mayor, City Council and the Chief, and everyone that has afforded me to be here.”0