Monday, March 11, 2019

Firefighter Annette Nance-Holt, the First Female named as Chicago Fire Department's 1st Deputy Commissioner.

A Chicago firefighter, whose son was killed in one of the most infamous shootings in Chicago history, has become the first woman ever to serve in the department’s second in command.
Chicago Fire Department Deputy District Chief Annette Nance-Holt has been promoted to the rank of First Deputy Commissioner, the first woman ever to hold that post in Chicago history.
Annette Nance-Holt was appointed as first deputy commissioner, the position most recently held by Fire Commissioner Richard Ford II. She was named to the department’s top post in October of 2018. Ford, a 35-year veteran, had since February 2016 served in the No. 2 position, before appointed to fill the $202,728-a-year position of Commissioner.

"The one thing I hope to bring is for little girls to look at me and say, 'Hey, I can do it,'" she said. "Because I never saw a firefighter when I was a little girl, African-American, and I never saw a woman at all, because there were none when I was a little girl." 

Nance-Holt's career started in corporate America as a tax accountant. But when friends started training for the fire academy, so did she. 

Her first assignment was with all male, all white firefighters. Throughout her 29 years on the job, she has witnessed CFD address several class action lawsuits and some ugly incidents regarding racism and sexism. Nance-Holt said she sees the department evolving. 

"I think we've evolved a lot from when I came on the job. When I came on the job it was quite different to me, QUITE different," she said. "And I went to a firehouse where there were no firefighter women. I was the first one to go there. And, uh, I did not feel that warm welcome when I went there."

She joined the department in 1990 — four years after the very first female firefighters were hired in November 1986, following charges of discrimination. She moved up through the ranks, promoted to lieutenant of the Fire Prevention Bureau in 1993, and then to lieutenant Emergency Medical Technician in Fire Suppression & Rescue, in 1995, a position she held until 2001.

From 2001 to 2014, she moved from the rank of lieutenant EMT in the Training Division to captain EMT in Fire Suppression & Rescue, during that time also serving as a federal monitor in the consent decree of the Lewis class-action suit that led to the hiring of of 111 candidate firefighters in 2012.

In 2014, she was promoted to battalion chief EMT in Headquarters Relief, then in 2016 promoted to deputy district chief at 4th District Headquarters, a position she’d held until her promotion Thursday to the $197,736 first deputy commissioner position. In her new role, she will be responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of the department.

“First Deputy Annette Nance-Holt is one of the most efficient officers I have had the pleasure of working with,” Fire Department Commissioner Richard C. Ford said. “She is an outstanding tactician and administrator. Her abilities and leadership are respected by both officers and the rank and file.”

The appointment to the department’s No. 2 position — no woman has held that or the top position of commissioner in the department’s 160-year history — was quietly made by Ford, himself appointed by outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to replace retired Commissioner Jose Santiago.

Blair Holt
Nance-Holt is the mother of 16-year-old Blair Holt, a Julian High School honor student who was killed on a CTA bus in 2007, trying to shield a friend after gang member Michael Pace opened fire at a rival gang member on the crowded bus after school. Pace was originally sentenced to 100 years in prison, but that sentence was reduced earlier this year, after an appeals court ruled the original judge improperly expressed personal views at sentencing. Nance-Holt and Blair’s father, retired Chicago Police Cmdr. Ronald Holt, became prominent gun control activists and advocates for crime victims after their son’s death.
Annette Nance-Holt and Ronald Holt hold honorary street signs for their son, Blair Holt, during a street-naming ceremony in front of Percy L. Julian High School on 103rd and South Elizabeth streets in Chicago on May 10, 2017.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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