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First woman in 200-history of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office named deputy chief

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Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin on Friday became the first female Deputy Chief in the 200-year history of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)
By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

From left to right: Chief Deputy Willie Hill, Deputy Chief Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin and Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway. Rucker-Sumerlin on Friday became the first female Deputy Chief in the 200-year history of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. (Erica Wright, The Birmingham Times)

Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin on Friday became the first female Deputy Chief in the 200-year history of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

Rucker-Sumerlin, who joined the Office in 1990, had been a captain since 2016.

“When I heard, I was in sheer disbelief,” said Rucker-Sumerlin. “I thought it would never happen for me, it’s something I always wanted… I was pretty much at the end of my career because I’ll have been at the Sheriff’s Office for 30 years in February and I had told myself if it didn’t happen then I would retire and go home and let it be, but God saw something different.”

As one of five deputy chiefs, Rucker-Sumerlin will oversee the Jefferson County jails in Birmingham and Bessemer.

“I’ll be responsible for everything that goes on in those jails, everybody that works in the jail… as far as contracts go with our outside vendors like emergency staff, I’m responsible for making sure they are living up to the terms of their contract,” she said. “I’m responsible for making sure that the deputies and sergeants, lieutenants and captains are living up to their responsibilities as well.”

Rucker-Sumerlin has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia Southern University and has served in the corrections division, patrol division, vice and narcotics and school resources.

She was promoted to sergeant in 2004 supervising the corrections division, patrol division and identity theft divisions. Rucker–Sumerlin was promoted to Lieutenant in 2008 and in 2016 she was promoted to the rank of captain.

Rucker-Sumerlin said she intentionally worked as many jobs as she could in the Sheriff’s Office to show that she was capable.

“I wanted to put myself in a position where no one could say that I wasn’t qualified to be a supervisor,” she said. “I took leadership classes, I made sure I got my bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.”

Rucker-Sumerlin said she didn’t want the position because she was black and female. “I wanted to be able to get whatever I get because I deserve it and I earned it. I want my work to speak for me.”

The Birmingham native is a mother of two, Brittany and Kennis, who passed away six years ago. She is the grandmother of seven and is currently raising her son’s daughters with her husband of nine years, Odell Sumerlin.

Rucker-Sumerlin said she wants to lead by example.

“It took 200 years and that speaks volumes,” she said. “Had anyone told me when I was coming up that I would be here, I would have laughed at them because I had no idea what God had in store for me… I knew He had set me aside, but I had no idea this is where He wanted me to be and what He wanted me to do.”