When William Garrett was a kid growing up in Gum Springs, he used to hang around the firefighters he admired at Franconia's Station No. 5.
"I would tell them I would be a firefighter one day, and they'd say no, no, go to college," recalled Garrett, now 44. "I took their advice, but I still became a firefighter."
What's more, Garrett has not only fulfilled that dream, but this summer he became deputy fire chief at the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. His job as as deputy chief, C-Shift, field operations, Operations Bureau, officially began July 28. It entails overseeing every aspect of the administrative side of the job, and managing the response to larger fires.
"I'm kind of the advocate for the 350 people who work under me to make sure their needs are being met," Garrett said, describing part of his job.
At the start of every day, he conducts what's called a "pulse check," by making sure that everyone is where they need to be, and always making sure that there's coverage at each fire station. He splits his time between the Massey building, his field office at Fire Station 30 in Merrifield and out responding to incidents in the field.
Garrett's natural tendency, though, is to talk less about himself, and more about how firefighters at the county's 37 fire stations work. "Ninety percent of what we do is preparation for the next call," he said.
There were some things over the course of his career that were impossible to fully prepare for, though, like the time when he responded to a call where there was a sick child and the mother did not speak English. Though the county has interpreters available to help in that kind of a situation, it still felt frustrating to lose valuable time.
"Seconds count," Garrett said. "Half-seconds count."
That experience convinced Garrett to go back to college and learn Spanish. He earned his bachelor's degree in foreign languages at George Mason University.
Outside of his job at the Fire and Rescue Department, the Centreville resident spends a lot of time with his kids and volunteering for their athletic activities, including with the . He also spends time at his church, Fairfax Church of Christ. His wife Lauretta also works in public safety, as an officer with the Fairfax County Police Department's . She's also gained some accolades: earlier this year .
William Garrett can't see himself doing anything else as a career. "Once you get in, you see what we do, you realize we have a very critical role in society," he said.