James Suggs, a 15-year veteran firefighter and paramedic of Jacksonville Fire Department, will be promoted to the rank of Captain at September’s City Council meeting. The official promotion will be made by JFD Chief Keith Fortner, and concludes the search to replace Captain Randy Ragsdale, who retired from the department in May, after which eight internal candidates were considered.
“He understands what builds cohesion in a tight unit of firefighters,” Fortner said. “What I was seeking in this position was someone who understood and appreciated individual strengths, and how to bring out the best in our guys in training or in tough situations. James has that ability.”
Fortner added that Suggs gave ‘convicted’ and accurate answers to tough situational questions in the interview process.
Suggs said he wants to make sure that JFD firefighters, who are mostly a young group, are “trained for any situation.”
“A priority for me is to meet with each one of our guys to help understand what they feel are their strengths and weaknesses,” Suggs said. “I have served in the trenches with these guys, and they know I am someone who they can come to. My job is to take their feedback and help make their jobs easier.”
Suggs is the son of military parents who settled in East Texas in the 1980s. His Father, who became a firefighter with the Tyler Fire Department after retiring from the Army, was influential on his son’s career choice. Out of high school, Suggs worked for a private emergency medical services (EMS) company in Tyler and, became acquainted with JFD members including Chief Fortner and Mike Terry, who will now serve as Suggs’ Lieutenant.
Fortner says that Suggs had brought a ‘modern’ perspective to JFD’s EMS at the time. “He came from a private organization and, had a more researched understanding of EMS than we had been trained for at the time.” With Suggs playing an intrinsic role, the department updated much of their EMS protocols to meet more advanced standards. He also contributed to JFD’s development of a field-training officer (FTO) program to train new paramedics. Today all JFD firefighters are dual-certified in EMS.
“We want to make sure that we give him the autonomy to spread his wings as a Captain.” Fortner says, “I’m excited to watch him, and give him the support he needs to implement his objectives.”
Suggs has been married to his wife Kassy for 19 years, and has four boys Nelson (17), Henry (15), Jack (10), and Cash (8). He says his family enjoys Jacksonville’s family-like atmosphere. “It’s a small town and I’m a fan of that.” As an Army brat growing up moving around a lot, he enjoys the ability to “put roots in a place.
“Being able to give that to my children means a lot to me.”