Small Town Alumni Make Big Contributions

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Pictured from left: Garett Ford, Emily Lanman and Conor Bumpus.

By Tammy Moore Teague

There are few people in their early twenties who, at such a young age, make major impacts in their career, and community. That kind of success is born with a driven determination to excel by never settling for mediocrity. It is just that which has motivated Garett Ford to a successful and meaningful career.

Ford, 23, was raised and attended school in Harford, AR. His parents, the late Gary Ford and Sharon Ford-Hyde encouraged his involvement in school, particularly, sports. Ford’s father, Gary, was himself deeply connected with Hartford Schools as an alumnus and as a timekeeper for the Hustler’s basketball and football games. Ford’s father developed kidney failure and became disabled. However, he spent the following 15 years volunteering and assisting with the athletic program. A student at the time, Ford began considering his future. “I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to take as I didn’t see anything spark much of an interest. Plus I was strongly focused on sports because that was my life at that point in time. There were so many options but I refused to settle for something that I somewhat liked.”

He was only 17 when he experienced the devastating loss of his father. It was at that time he knew what his calling was. “I had a burning desire arise within me to help people,” explained Ford.” A lifelong friend of mine by the name of James Fortson, also a Hartford High School Graduate, was a member of a local fire department. I was able to witness his pager going off and him dropping everything to answer the call for help. I found great honor in that line of work and soon made the decision that’s where I needed to be.” It was then that Ford attended his first meeting at the Hartford Fire Department and was voted on as a member. He felt the warm and welcoming atmosphere surrounding the department. “It’s a brotherhood that I’ve never experienced in my life,” he said.

Ford wasted no time jumping into fire classes. He found his passion, and knew he wanted to expand his experience into the field of an Emergency Medical Responder. As he began his senior year in high school, he began searching fields of study. “I came across the Emergency Administration and Management program through Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and immediately knew that it was a perfect fit for me.” Ford’s longtime friend, Conor Bumpus, had similar interests. Bumpus had moved from Texas to Hartford and the two had known each other since fifth grade. Ford and Bumpus formed a long lasting friendship and the two have served side by side on the Hartford Fire Department ever since. Ford said “he (Bumpus) also has a strong desire for helping people and is a vital asset to the department through his hard work ethic and dedication. Everywhere he goes he’s continuously recognized for his quality work and enthusiasm to make a difference.”

The two young men graduated high school together in 2014 and both enrolled at ATU embarking on degree in Emergency Management. “Having a close friend pursing the same degree greatly helped us mold into more intelligent students by assisting one another when one of us experienced difficulties,” explained Ford. “We took charge and gave it our all throughout our college career Emergency Management is all about resources and sometimes having the resource of a friend is all you need. As we continued to push one another as the work load seemed to pile on top of us, we never lost sight of the big picture. We reminded ourselves, especially on the tough days, that we are here because we want to make a difference. A difference for ourselves, our families that were behind us supporting every step of the way, and a difference for the lives of the people that we will be responding to in their time of need.”

Ford’s family continued to be a major motivation for him to continue pursuing his dream. After his father’s passing, his mother met and married David Hyde. The couple still resides in Hartford, and following graduation for Tech, Ford returned to his hometown. Through his service with the fire department, he had formed connections with Sebastian County Emergency Management and Public Safety in Fort Smith. It was there that both Ford and Bumpus decided to complete internships. “We were required to serve 400 hours with an agency and assist them with their day-to-day duties.”
This opportunity gave an eye opening experience to both young men as they worked beside the Assistant County Administrator, Jeffrey Turner and Deputy Director, Travis Cooper. “We were getting the opportunity to apply some of the things we learned in the classroom,” Ford said. “Responding to calls, developing preparation plans, attending exercises, and visiting local schools for safety presentations were all a part of our experience with the agency.”

It was under the direction of Cooper that Ford was able to apply for a grant through the Diamond Pipeline. This grant would fund essential wildland firefighting gear for the Hartford Fire Department. Ford applied for the maximum amount of $10,000 with little expectation of receiving that amount. Much to Ford’s surprise, he received an email notifying him of the $9,999 award. “This was a great blessing to us because due to low funding, we were not in the best position to make a purchase that large at that point in time. We were able to utilize that money to get our firefighters equipped with new gear that help keep them safe.”

As the internship ended, both Ford and Bumpus began looking for jobs. They were drawn to job postings in the Sebastian County Sheriff’s office with positions as bailiff. “We decided that it would be a quality step towards our careers and greatly help us gain some experience so we put in our applications,” explained Ford. They completed the rigorous testing throughout the hiring process which included a written, physical and psychological exams as well as a lie detector test and interviews. Both Ford and Bumpus were hired for the position.

The two young men had also graduated from Hartford with Emily Lanman. She too had been in the school system throughout her academic years and befriended Ford and Bumpus. The trio all had similar interests and she too joined the fire department. Because there are few female fire fighters, she made her own mark in the department. “This was a huge step towards bravery that is so admirable and shows her determination to make a difference in our community,” remarked Ford. Lanman is also employed with the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office, and works in the Special Services Division. Her daily duties include serving subpoenas and civil papers, collecting fines, and assisting. “This is a critical division with the department that aids in operations. Throughout our journey to this point we’ve been nothing but blessed with the opportunities that have been given to us as we grow. I know that we will continue to put our best foot forward with everything we do and do everything we can to keep increasing our knowledge and performance,” he added. Lanman is enrolled at the University of Arkansas in Fort Smith working toward a degree in Criminal Justice. “Not only is she a firefighter, but she also has a love for law enforcement and criminal justice. I don’t know very many women that I can say that about. Her sense of bravery in that matter is incredible,” concluded Ford.

It is very personal and disheartening for Ford seeing his alma mater close their doors. It produced the education and foundation for the trio and certainly set them up for success. “Hartford Schools, although small in size, has provided us with a solid foundation that we have carried with us along the way. Due to the small class size, the connection between the teachers and student body was unlike any other experience that you would get at a much larger school. We don’t regret a single minute of our time as a Hartford Hustler and we value the memories that were shared within those walls. We’re thankful for all the teachers and staff that helped us not only graduate from there, but provided us with life lessons and values that we still to this day follow.”

This year marks the sixth year Ford has served on the local fire department and as a Medical Responder. He has no plans to leave his first love any time soon. Ford contributes much of his determination and strength to his late father. “He lived his short life by the motto ‘be committed,’ no matter the task or assignment at hand, don’t just be involved ‘be committed.’

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