First-ever female commissioner to lead NYC fire department

New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh, right, and New York Mayor Eric Adams, left, hold an NYFD badge after Kavanagh was sworn in during a ceremony at FDNY Engine 33/Ladder 9, Thursday, Oct 27, 2022 in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)
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Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Thursday appointed acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh to lead the department on a permanent basis, making her the first female commissioner in the 157-year history of the Fire Department of New York.

“Laura Kavanagh is a proven and tested leader, and I’m proud to announce her historic appointment today,” the Democratic mayor said.

Kavanagh, 40, has served as acting commissioner since the retirement of Commissioner Daniel Nigro in February. She will oversee a department of 17,000, including firefighters and emergency medical workers.

Her appointment as commissioner represents progress for a department seeking to diversify after decades as a white male bastion.

As of August there were 141 female firefighters in the FDNY, the most since a lawsuit forced the department to hire women as firefighters in the 1980s.

Kavanagh has never been a firefighter herself. She was a senior adviser to former Mayor Bill de Blasio, and a campaign staffer for de Blasio and former President Barack Obama, before joining the department in an administrative role in 2014. She was named first deputy commissioner in 2018.

As first deputy commissioner and acting commissioner, Kavanagh oversaw the department’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its response to tragedies including a Bronx fire that killed 19.

She is a graduate of Whittier College in California and has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.