Jeremy Finney is a Florida boy. Born in Tampa, he graduated from Brandon High and attended the University of South Florida.
As a firefighter and paramedic for the city of Tampa, Finney responds to calls out of Palma Ceia Station 14. He serves as a medic for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Buccaneers. In his free time, he relaxes at home in Brandon with his wife and two kids. His mom and stepdad, both retired firefighters, live just down the street from his family in the house where he grew up.
So when Our Nation's Bravest, a calendar featuring firefighters from American cities, named Finney Mr. Tampa, he was happy to go shirtless to represent his hometown for the month of July. All proceeds from the calendar go to charities selected by each city's firefighter's union.
Finney, 35, is raising money for Camp Hoptake, a burn camp for children. He sat down with the Times' Sarah Whitman to talk about his career and his celebrity.
How did you become Mr. Tampa?
The publishers of the calendar contacted different firefighters unions. My union asked me if I would be interested in applying. At first, I said, 'I don't think so,' but then they said it was all for charity, and I decided I'd try it out. They called and told me I'd been chosen in June.
You come from a family of firefighters. When did you decide to carry on the tradition?
I started alluding to it at an early age, probably 10 or 11, but my dad told me no. He said I should go to school and do something else where I could make more money. He was a firefighter. My mom was a firefighter paramedic. My stepdad was a firefighter paramedic, and I had an uncle who was a firefighter, so I knew I wouldn't get rich at it.
I went to USF on a scholarship and studied music education, but after a semester I knew that wasn't for me. I ended up working as a sales manager at a furniture store. I hated my job, and I decided I wanted to follow my instincts and do what I'd always wanted to do. So I started firefighter paramedic school.
Is it what you imagined it would be?
There's a lot more to it than squirting water on a fire. There's the medical side, the traveling, the rescues. I am one of two paramedics on the Tampa Police SWAT team. I never expected I'd get to do things like that.
What is the most rewarding part of the job?
At the Gasparilla race, we had a guy have a heart attack and collapse face first into the pavement. We were able to get to him, get him to the hospital and get him quick care. That's rewarding. He walked out of the hospital doing well.
What is your connection to Camp Hoptake?
I am actually director of the camp this year. I've been involved about eight years. The camp is for burn survivors. The boys and girls come out to Tampa for one week each summer. We take them to Busch Gardens and different places. We all stay in a dormitory at USF. It's a fun week, to see the kids have a good time. I was actually at camp when the calendar publishers called to tell me I was going to be Mr. Tampa. I was there eating hotdogs, hamburgers and chips, thinking, 'How am I going to get in shape for these pictures?' I had to eat turkey burgers the rest of that week.
Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or firstname.lastname@example.org.