Pride of the Pine Belt: Retired Hattiesburg Fire Marshal

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Hattiesburg Fire Marshal Andy Cartlidge recalls his mentors telling him the decision to retire should be his and his alone, that one day he would wake up and know it was time.

Well, Cartlidge says that day came a few weeks ago, and he left his career with no regrets.

Now, retired Hattiesburg Fire Marshal Andy Cartlidge says a childhood dream was the catalyst for his 35-year career.

"I'm fortunate enough to be doing the job that I wanted to do since I was a kid. My dad had a business for many, many years, and most of his employees were off duty firefighters. Those guys would take me to station 1 when it was under city hall, and I stayed there more than I did with my dad," said Cartlidge.

Cartlidge feels those days left a lasting impression, and led him to 29 years of firefighting, and six years as fire marshal.

"Fire Marshal's job, our office entails a lot of public education, fire prevention, fire investigation, code enforcement," said Cartlidge.

Cartlidge says he will miss those tasks, but has the mind set of once a firefighter always a firefighter.

"The thing that I miss most is the engine company showing up first on the scene, and then pulling the hose lines off, and they are suited already, and they are going in," said Cartlidge.

When it comes to jobs like police officer or firefighter, Cartlidge recalls some saying its a thank-less job, but Cartlidge says every once in a while that's not the case.

"And in that one instance where a family member comes up to you, whether it's a husband or a mother, they hug you, and that is enough gratitude right there," said Cartlidge.

Now, Cartlidge says it's time to work on his "honey-do-list", but he will cherish what he has learned and the relationships he made long into his retirement years.

"The ones I grew up under, my mentors, I hope they're as proud of me as I am of them for instilling in me to stay around, and try to make a difference because that's very, very important to me," said Cartlidge.