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14 September 2007
JSU Alumna Pursues Career as JSU Faculty Member and Serves as City Firefighter/Equestrian Caretaker

By Jennifer Bacchus
News Staff Writer

Reprinted here in its entirety.

One of a Select Few

Teje Sult gets fitted for her turnouts at the Jacksonville Fire Department. Photo: Anita Kilgore

In more than a dozen years, the Jacksonville Fire Department has only had three female firefighters. Despite that fact, Teje Sult doesn’t consider her recent addition to the ranks of their volunteers to be extraordinary.

Then again, considering the fact she grew up across the street from the fire station in Carroll County, Ga., where her father volunteered, perhaps it was simply meant to be.

Sult first came to Jacksonville as a student in the late ’90s – earning four Bachelor’s degrees from Jacksonville State University in technology and safety before moving on to Kentucky. There, she received a Master’s degree in occupational safety and health from Murray State and met her husband, Michael.

“We were both working at Wal-Mart,” said Sult, “We met at Wal-Mart.”

The two have been married for three years and have an Australian cattle dog named Dakota.

Technology and safety ultimately brought her back to Jacksonville in 2006 – this time as a teacher in JSU’s technology department.

Now beginning her second year as a professor, she is settled into life at the university and ready to expand her volunteering.

She already volunteers at the JSU field school near Fort Payne, leading tours through the Little River Canyon area, something she got into after going on one of the school-sponsored hikes.

“Actually, I signed up and went on one of the hikes. The guy leading the hike was one of the other instructors, not in this department, but in the university,” she said, adding relaying how he recognized her from JSU and told her that if she came up with and volunteered to lead a hike at the field school, she wouldn’t have to pay for the other hikes she joined.

Soon thereafter she saw an ad for volunteers and has been helping ever since.

Sult also helps with the horses at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind’s Equestrian Center, which sates her childhood ambition to become a veterinarian. It began when two members of the center’s staff came on a hike and asked for volunteers.

“So I spend every Friday working with horses – I can’t complain,” she said.

Sult showed dogs as a child, only beginning to lean toward technology over animal medicine in high school when an instructor got her interested in tech classes.

She continued to work at a vet’s office throughout high school and into college before finally switching her major and setting her sights on a future in tech and safety.

A little time spent in Oklahoma during the summer of 2004, working with firefighters ignited an old spark in her, so when her chance came this year to join the volunteer ranks at Jacksonville’s fire department, she jumped on it.

The fact that she is a female and so many of her male counterparts literally tower over her doesn’t faze her a bit. She’s found ways to adapt and overcome any lack in strength or height.

“Height is a little bit of a challenge and then again big guys can pick up more weight than I can. Both of those are challenges,” she said, as she relayed a story of using a chair recently to check the smoke alarms at The Grove apartment complex. “I’ve been short all my life, so I’ve learned to adapt. If I need to get something off the top shelf, I know how to climb to get to it.”

Sult may not consider it a feat of any great importance to be the sole female firefighter in Jacksonville, but that isn’t the only thing that makes her extraordinary.

About Jennifer Bachus

Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at

See story at The Jacksonville News's website: .

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