Be it old books, old houses, or just old knick-knacks — Jenny Folsom loves them all. Folsom, who currently serves as a council woman for the City of Cullman, even lives in a downtown home that is nearly 100 years old.

“I just love the history, and the old bones and architecture of the house,” she said. “A lot of craftsmanship goes into old houses. It’s like a lost art.”

Folsom has been a history buff ever since she was in high school.

“I had a history teacher at Cullman High School, Alberta Bailey, who was just one of those tough, tough teachers,” Folsom said. “She would just push you and make you want to strive and achieve the best you could. She was tough, but she helped me so much.”

With her inspiration piqued — and limited job options at that time — Folsom said she decided to become an educator. Or, more specifically: A history teacher.

“The opportunities were there, but they were a little tougher at that time,” she said. “At the time, I thought the best opportunities for women were becoming a nurse, secretary or a teacher.”

Folsom said a teaching career was the only one that fit her particular skill sets.

“I didn’t like blood and I’m not good at typing,” she said with a laugh. “So, I decided to go into education.”

Her education career fared quite well, as Folsom made her way through numerous school systems as a history and elementary teacher. She  also earned a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University, a master’s degree from the University of Alabama Birmingham and a doctorate from the University of Alabama.

“I covered about all of the major state schools,” she said. “On any given Saturday, at least one of my teams is winning.”

Her path eventually brought her to Wallace State in Hanceville, where she worked for 22 years before recently retiring.

“I was vice-president for learning,” she said of her time at WSCC. “I worked with the academic affairs and the faculty.”

Now retired, Folsom said it will give her more time to spend focusing on her job as a city council woman.

“I grew up here and have seen a lot of changes in Cullman,” she said. “I was at an age and a stage in my life now that I wanted to try and give something back. I want to do what I can to keep Cullman growing.”

The part-time city leadership role takes up a lot more time than she first expected, Folsom said.

“You have numerous meetings during the week, plus chamber and civic events that are so vital to the community,” she said. “It’s definitely a lot more than just the two city council meetings we have.”

Folsom said she became interested in politics while married to her late husband, Jack Folsom — son of former Alabama Governor Jim Folsom.

“I definitely married into a political family,” she said. “Politics weren’t in my blood, but I’ve been exposed to it a lot.”

Her retirement will also give her more time to spend on her personal life, Folsom said.

“My mother is 93 and still in good health, so I’ll get to spend time with her,” she said. “I also enjoy reading historical books and look forward to having more time to garden and grow roses. I love roses.”

Now that she should have at least a few early afternoons free, Folsom said she hopes to renew a passion she put on the backburner more than 20 years: Golf.

“I used to play and was really passionate about it for several years,” she said, pulling out an old set of clubs from her shed. “What’s so great is that, when you’re playing golf, you can forget about everything else in the world for just a few hours.”

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 225.

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