A MOM WITH MANY HATS
Joheida Fister has many titles. Fire marshal. Public information officer. Deputy fire chief. Mom.
In September, Fister will celebrate 20 years with Hilton Head Island Fire Rescue. For 15 of those years, she has held the title of mom.
While many women work full-time jobs in addition to raising families, Fister has a lot riding on her shoulders.
“I just really feel a sense of commitment to this community to make sure that it is safe, and that everybody who comes here or lives here has a safe place to live and vacation,” Fister said.
Her job with Fire Rescue is a demanding one. It takes precedence over everything else.
Fister works 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, but most days she also has to deal with issues outside of those hours. She doesn’t want her staff to have to work on their time off, so she is there to back them up.
If there’s a fire on the weekend, Fister go to assess the damage. If there’s a wreck and the newspaper wants information, she takes the phone call. If someone is caught illegally burning on a weekend, she goes out to write a ticket.
Fister wears many hats at Fire Rescue. She is responsible for supervising several employees, including three fire inspectors, the fire- and life-safety educator and the deputy fire marshal. She supervises the 911 dispatch center that handles calls for all seven fire stations on the island. She talks to the media when they want information about a fire or a wreck. She investigates fires, enforces fire safety regulations and oversees fire inspections.
In February 2019, Fister was promoted to deputy fire chief. She is one of two deputy fire chiefs with the town. The only person ranked higher than the deputy chiefs is the fire chief.
How does she do it all? Fister credits her incredibly supportive husband, Howard Fister, and her employer.
“The town is very supportive of their employees,” Joheida said. “The majority of us have families, so that has always been helpful.”
Howard and the couple’s two teenage daughters understand that when duty calls, mom must go. If one of her children is in the middle of a volleyball game and she gets a call, she has to go. If there’s a fire on a Saturday, she goes.
“And when I get that 2:00 in the morning call because we had a fire and I need to go in, there’s never any question of Howard jumping into action and helping along the way,” Joheida said.
The Fisters’ daughters, 15-year-old Emilie and 13-year-old Helena, are equally as supportive. The girls admire their mother’s commitment to her job.
Helena said her mom has taught them the importance of working hard. Both girls are proud of their mom for what she does for a living.
“Although she has to be at work a lot, she always finds time to take care of us, as well as herself, and get her job done,” Emilie said.
Joheida said she does the best she can at work and at home. It is a struggle, but she makes it work.
“Having daughters, I want to be a good role model for them, and I want to be present and available,” Joheida said. “And that’s a struggle because you have a job to do too. It is an internal struggle sometimes of wanting to do your job and do it the best that you can — and knowing that you’re helping people — but then not always being able to be available for your family because you have to be somewhere.”
Joheida loves her job and her coworkers, which makes missing a game here or there a little easier on her heart.
PHOTOS BY RUTHE RITTERBECK