Home Fire News FDNY appoints its first female Fire Commissioner

FDNY appoints its first female Fire Commissioner

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Source: NYC Mayor’s Office Twitter

Shaina McLawrence

Staten Island Advance, N.Y.

Laura Kavanagh made history Thursday morning by becoming the first woman ever appointed New York City fire commissioner.

Mayor Eric Adams made the historic appointment, the first in the 157-year history of the FDNY.

As FDNY commissioner, Kavanagh will oversee the day-to-day administration of the agency’s 17,000 employees and $2 billion budget.

Since February, Kavanagh has served as acting interim fire commissioner.

Prior to that, Kavanagh worked at City Hall as a special assistant to Mayor Bill de Blasio. She also previously worked in management and campaign consulting with non-profits, community-based organizations, and unions, the city said in its announcement. In that time, she held senior roles on presidential, mayoral, congressional, and local campaigns, the announcement said.

In 2015, Kavanagh helped lead FDNY’s Ebola outbreak response. In 2020, Kavanagh was part of the COVID-19 Impact for New York City. She also directed a firefighter recruitment program that yielded the most diverse applicant pool in the department’s history.

She has taken the lead in distributing smoke alarms to at-risk communities, improved the department’s incident command app and has also cut the wait time in half for businesses waiting for fire inspections.

New Yorkers and New York City’s bravest “deserve an exceptional leader, and Laura has the vision, skills, the compassion to lead the FDNY into the future,” said Adams.

Adams swore Kavanagh into office using the bible passed down from her grandmother. With her right hand on the bible, Kavanagh swore to support The U.S. Constitution and that of New York state.

“Having a woman in this role is a change, but change provides opportunity,” said the newly-appointed commissioner. “Change, in fact, is the only constant in life, and if we embrace it, change is a gift. It provides an opportunity to bring more people into the gift that is the FDNY. It is a reminder that we are alive and that we can move something we love forward to be even stronger. Change is what has made this department and this city continually stronger. It is why we are the best.”

Kavanagh is an alumnus of the Executive Leaders Program at the Naval Post Graduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Summer Institute. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science and international relations from Whittier College and a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

When asked to explain the perceived delay in making Kavanagh’s appointment official, Adams said he needed time to learn the FDNY’s needs and culture.

Through talking with members, union leadership and the department chief, Adams kept coming back to Kavanagh as the perfect person for the job, he said.

Elected officials citywide, including Staten Island City Councilman Joseph Borelli, were quick to praise the appointment.

“As the former chair of the Committee on Fire and Emergency Management, I spent four years working alongside Commissioner Kavanagh during some of the toughest days in the fire department’s recent history,” Borelli said. “I have absolute confidence in her abilities and know she will serve the city well for years to come. She knows her stuff and she cares, and we are lucky to have her.”

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