Kelly Owens, 39 (left)
Company/Job title: Ocala Fire Rescue, Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
How I got into firefighting: It was accidental. I graduated college with an AA degree in Elementary Education. My twin sister Robin was starting fire college and begged me to go with her. The rest is history. I started in 2008.
What makes me passionate about my career: A college professor once said to me, “People don’t leave buildings, people leave people.” That statement sunk very deep with me. What has made me passionate about my career choice has been my amazing co-workers and the unique situations we’ve faced together. My fire family and what we do and stand for mean everything to me.
My advice for the younger generation: Be proud of yourself for every step you take. Don’t measure yourself too harshly. Be grateful for failures as much as successes. Stay driven and never grow fear to keep trying.
In my spare time: I love to paint and feel holding a paintbrush is very therapeutic and rewarding. When asked to paint something for someone, it’s an honor. To me, paint is somewhat magical and provides more than just a color change. Paint can shift a mood, express a feeling and bring an emotional connection to a space. There is no better feeling than making someone smile by helping them achieve their vision.
After 40, I see myself: Living this life every day to the fullest. I don’t spend too much time thinking into the future. Life is so unpredictable. I hope to continue what I do in the present. Every day provides a new set of opportunities to build on. I don’t know what my future holds, but I am hopeful it will be beautiful and perhaps something I haven’t dreamt of yet.
Robin Smithgall, 39 (right)
Company/Job Title: Sumter County Fire & EMS, Division Chief
How I got into firefighting: I’d originally planned to pursue nursing. Once I finished my prerequisites, I was put on a two-year waiting list to get into the program, so my twin sister and I decided to go to fire school. We started work with separate agencies on Oct. 1, 2008.
My greatest professional accomplishment: Being in the position I am now overseeing health and safety. It allows for opportunities to champion our agency’s mental health and wellness. There have been too many line of duty deaths related to suicide and cancer. I love being able to collaborate with other agencies on this movement to break the stigma—be BRAVE and ask for help. It’s ok not to be ok.
My advice for the younger generation: Get the word “can’t” out of your vocabulary, and always have a sense of humor! It sounds cliché, but you have to be mindful of your thoughts and the power of a positive attitude. Focus on quality relationships, do things wholeheartedly. Find a balance in life, and don’t sacrifice your family for your career. Keep God first and the rest will fall into place.
In my spare time: Spending time with family is my absolute favorite! I also love painting my wagon, making signs, decorating our house for the holidays, making jellies and jams, antiquing with my husband and finding “rusty treasures.”
After 40: “The Best is Yet to Come.” I want to leave it better than I found it, as Mom would say. I hope to make a difference in the fire service personally and professionally. My ultimate goal is to be in the mountains with my sugar whiskers (husband Ken) watching fireflies glow, and listening to the creek run.