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CHEROKEE — As a lieutenant in the Tuscumbia Fire department, part of Isaac Wingo's job is to train new firefighters and manage the men on his shift.

Soon, Wingo will be training high school students who just might become professional firefighters themselves.

He was recently selected to become the instructor at the Colbert County Career Tech's Fire Science Program at Cherokee High School.

Wingo will follow in the footsteps of Michael D. Smith, who was the program's first and only instructor. Smith recently became the director of the Colbert County Emergency Management Agency following the retirement in May of longtime director Mike Melton.

After graduating from Tishomingo County High School near Iuka, Mississippi, Wingo said he spent two years at Northeast Mississippi Community College before enrolling in the Entertainment Industry Management program at the University of North Alabama.

He was considering a career in music, but felt at that time he would have to move out of the Shoals to make it work.

He worked for a time in the Tuscumbia Street Department, then was moved over to the Fire Department. Wingo said he also had an uncle who was a firefighter.

The new gig as the fire science instructor will let him provide high school students with an avenue into the profession.

"I'm looking forward to it," Wingo said. "It seems like the Colbert County School System is putting a lot into their career tech programs."

While it was a difficult decision to leave the fire department, the new job will allow Wingo to have more time with his family.

"That was one of the big deciding factors," Wingo said. "We have a good part-time program in Tuscumbia, so in the summertime I can do some part-time work."

Tuscumbia Fire Chief Rodney McAnally said he hates to lose such a great firefighter, but believes Wingo is well suited for the job at Cherokee High School.

"I've been with him the better part of the last 20 years," McAnally said.

McAnally chairs the advisory committee that was involved in making the recommendation to the county board of education.

"Replacing Michael David (Smith) was a tall task," the chief said. 

McAnally said Wingo holds certifications of Instructor I and II, as well as other certifications that helped him earn the recommendation.

"I hate to lose him worse than anything, but I'm gaining another partner in another aspect of the job," he said. "We support that program. We're the ones who are going to be hiring those kids."

Smith said he also sat in on the interview with potential candidates.

"Only four people applied, which is more than when I first applied," Smith said. "We felt like that was good."

Smith said Wingo will begin working on July 17, but must first attend a six session program in Montgomery to earn his bachelor's level teaching certificate.

"The whole thing about career tech, the best teacher is going to be someone coming out of the industry," Smith said.

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