Joseph Hudgins realized at a young age that it was better to take action than sit idly by when he could be helping others. In his early teens, Hudgins took an interest in helping his community by beginning to pursue his ambition of becoming a firefighter.
''The fire department has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. I started out when I was 15,'' said Hudgins. Of how his interest was sparked, Hudgins said, ''It was late one night around 3 o’clock I heard a bunch of sirens. It was a cold January night. I got a little nervous because the sirens stopped right outside my house.''
Hudgins looked outside to find that the commotion was coming from his neighbor's house. He recalled, ''My neighbor was having a heart attack, and I saw a couple firefighters doing CPR on my neighbor.'' Hudgins was impressed by the volunteer firefighter’s response to a heart attack victim despite the cold weather and the late hour of the call.
''These guys got out early in the morning on a cold night to help somebody they didn't even know, and they weren't getting paid for it,'' he said of their heroic actions. ''I thought, surely, there's something I can be doing in my community to help.''
After speaking with a friend who worked for the fire department, he decided to go down to the station to learn more, and he never looked back.
''I showed up at every fundraiser, every meeting I could make. For the first two years, I didn't miss a thing.'' He was not old enough to fight fires at 15 years old, but he was persistent. By the time he was 18 years old, he was four years ahead of anyone else his age aspiring to do the same thing.
In pursuit of his dream, Hudgins attended as many state training courses as he could, attended a live burn class, and got a first responder medical license. Hudgins' hard work certainly did not go to waste.
''Come the next officer election, they voted me in as lieutenant and I was the youngest lieutenant ever in the Henderson County Fire Department, which has about 200 people. That was really humbling to me that some of the guys, [aged] 40 [to] 50, trusted me to be a lieutenant over 25 to 50 people at a time,'' Hudgins said.
Thanks to his experience at the Henderson County Fire Department, he was able to find a job working for the 911 dispatcher, which compliments his pursuit of a criminal justice degree.
Of his inspiration for his area of study, Hudgins said, ''My dad is actually a police officer. He works for the state for homeland security. He talked to me about it; and working at 911, I worked with a bunch of sheriff's deputies. They all talked to me and encouraged me.''
Hudgins has big dreams, and his work, determination and leadership skills will make it possible for him to help the state of Tennessee and his hometown community.
''I'm hoping when I get out of college that I can try to get into bomb and arson investigations for the state. That's going back to firefighting,'' Hudgins said of his future plans. ''That would be something I could wake up in the morning and be excited about going to work for.''