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Little Rock’s Kerr to be Austin’s first female Fire Chief

Thursday, November 13, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Austin City Manager Marc Ott today will announce his selection of Rhoda Mae Kerr to be Austin’s next Fire Chief. Council Member Lee Leffingwell, who confirmed Kerr’s selection Wednesday evening, said the choice creates an “historic opportunity to have the first female Fire Chief, in keeping with the city’s effort to increase the number of female firefighters and with the effort to upgrade existing fire stations to provide facilities for female firefighters.” Leffingwell also said all of the finalists for the position were well qualified and he felt confident that the City Council would ratify Ott’s decision.


Acting Chief Jim Evans has led the department since Chief J.J. Adame resigned under pressure earlier this year. Besides Kerr, the other finalists for the job included Chief Randy Bruegman of Fresno, Calif., who had also served as the President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs; Richard Gracia, Deputy Fire Chief of Support Services in Las Vegas; and Niles Ford, Fire Chief in Lincoln, Neb.


Ott’s selection will come to the Council for approval. “I’ve been consistently impressed with the City Manager’s appointments and I’m impressed with this appointment as well,” said Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken.


Kerr is currently the Chief of the Little Rock, Ark. Fire Department, which has 400 members. She joined the department in 1983. According to her biography on the department’s website, Kerr is a fourth-generation firefighter.


A native of New Jersey, Kerr began her career after teaching college physical fitness and health. In 1983, Kerr returned to earn her associate’s degree in fire technology, followed by a master’s degree in public administration in 1993.


Kerr has served as the chair for the Human Relations Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and as the Past President of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers, a support group for the National Fire Academy. She has also been a board member for Greater Arkansas Chapter of the American Red Cross and Just Communities of Central Arkansas.


Ott will officially announce Kerr’s hiring at a 1pm news conference at City Hall today.

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