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First Black woman nominated as city’s fire commissioner

If Annette Nance-Holt’s nomination by Mayor Lori Lightfoot is approved by the City Council, she will be the first woman to serve as fire commissioner in the department’s 162-year history.

Annette Nance-Holt
Annette Nance-Holt
Chicago Fire Department

Mayor Lori Lightfoot nominated Annette Nance-Holt — a Black woman — to lead the Chicago Fire Department.

If Nance-Holt’s nomination is approved by the City Council, she will be the first woman to serve as fire commissioner in the department’s 162-year history.

The 30-year CFD veteran was named acting fire commissioner after former Commissioner Richard Ford II retired in April.

“...In a time where more work remains in order to eliminate discrimination, racism and sexism from the firefighter profession, Commissioner Holt’s history-making appointment as the first woman and Black woman to lead as Fire Commissioner couldn’t have come at a better moment,” Lightfoot said in a statement.

Nance-Holt was named first deputy commissioner by Ford in 2018, making her the first woman to hold the department’s number two spot.

Nance-Holt, in a statement, said the department “must have membership and leadership that mirrors the communities it serves every day.”

“As a child, I never laid eyes on either a female firefighter or a firefighter of color,” Nance-Holt’s statement reads in part. “There were no role models who looked like me, and so I never thought that becoming a firefighter, which was my dream, would be a possibility for me. As Fire Commissioner, I intend to show the next generation of young black women that they too can achieve any and everything they set their minds and hearts to.”

Along with her long career in the CFD, Nance-Holt is also the founder of two nonprofits, Purpose Over Pain and the Blair Holt Scholarship Foundation, which focus on gun violence.

The second nonprofit is named for her son, a 16-year-old honor student at Julian High School who was shot to death on his way home from school by a reputed gang member in 2007.

Once Nance-Holt formally takes helm of the CFD, she will have a host of matters to address.

Last month, an audit by the city’s inspector general revealed that 73 out of 285 male and female CFD members reported they experienced sexual harassment “at least once.”

Even more troubling is the rate of sexual harassment among women in the department. Of the 45 women who answered survey questions, 28 of them — or 62% — reported they were sexually harassed on the job.