Brownsville Fire Department Chief Jarrett Sheldon has spent nearly 30 years of his life serving his community, but has never forgotten where he started – Texas Southmost College.
The Los Fresnos native first became a volunteer fire fighter when he was only 15 years old, following in his father’s footsteps, who served decades in the U.S. Navy as a firefighter, in crash rescue, in the industrial emergency medical services and with the Brownsville and Los Fresnos fire departments.
Since then, a career in firefighting has been a family affair with his brothers pursuing the same path. However, Sheldon said TSC opened up numerous opportunities for him, such as becoming a paramedic.
“I started college at Texas A&M-Kingsville, but I was only there for a couple of semesters,” said the 42-year-old. “I only wanted to experience life on my own. I didn’t have any other reason to be there, so I moved back to Brownsville, where my life truly started.”
In 2000, Sheldon began his fire training with the Brownsville Fire Department fire academy and paramedic training at TSC.
He said it was at TSC where he first realized that becoming a paramedic would be a lifelong career.
“I never planned on becoming a paramedic, but the opportunity was presented to me, so I took it,” said Sheldon. “I never believed I would enjoy it as much as I did, but after one semester I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”
In 2001, when he graduated from TSC’s paramedic program and completed his fire training, he began his career with the Brownsville Fire Department, where he has now served for two decades.
Sheldon started as a fire fighter/paramedic and climbed the ranks to aerial ladder driver, lieutenant, inspector, investigator, deputy chief and to his most recent promotion – fire chief.
“It all started for me at TSC,” he said. “The learning bug, the networking, relationship building and introduction to so many opportunities would have never happened if not for this college. To this day, TSC still holds a special in place in my heart.”
Not only does he still feel close to TSC because the Brownsville Fire Department provides clinical space for TSC’s paramedic students and hires many of them, but because it motivated him years ago to continue learning and pursue his education.
Sheldon went on to earn an associate degree in Fire Administration from a north Texas college and is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership from a local college.
“Learning in this field never stops. There’s always something new,” said Sheldon. “And for me to better serve my community, I need to take advantage of all the training opportunities available to me and to learn as much as I can. The more we learn in this field, the better trained professionals we have and the better we can fill the gaps in the health care system.”
The fire chief’s daily duties include: overseeing10 fire and ambulance stations, fire prevention, inspection and investigation, emergency management and special divisions such as drone and dive teams.
He also works closely in planning and hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics with the Cameron County Health Department and emergency planning for hurricane and other health and weather-related issues.
“We have a great team that works together to make everything we do for our residents possible and many of us are TSC graduates,” he said. “I’m proud of them, and most proud of how we’ve handled our recent vaccine challenge, and how many people we’ve been able to protect. My overall goal as chief is to ensure that I provide the highest quality of service and protection our community deserves.”
Visit TSC’s Emergency Medical Services program for more information.