She's The Chief!

Ott selects Rhoda Mae Kerr

Rhoda Mae Kerr
Rhoda Mae Kerr (Credit: IAFC)

Shattering yet another glass ceiling with a fire axe, as it were, Austin's first African-American city manager will today name Rhoda Mae Kerr to be Austin’s first female Fire Chief.

"That makes three strong, powerful women I've selected in a row – our new fire chief, Sara Hensley as our new Parks Department Director, and Sue Edwards as Assistant City Manager," noted Marc Ott. "I'm very proud of those appointments." As Fire Chief in Little Rock, he said, Kerr was known not only as a strong chief but also for excellence in community engagement; one reason she won the job was that "she clearly indicated her commitment to becoming visible and engaged in Austin."

More below.

Asked about the openness of the fire chief selection process, which included substantial community involvement, the city manager said it typifies his overall commitment to greater transparency at city hall. Ott said he'd heard much appreciative feedback from community members, fire department staff, and union representatives about the opportunity to be involved. Among those he successfully encouraged to participate was former mayor Gus Garcia – who had earlier thrown burning embers Ott's way over minority inclusiveness issues.

City council is expected to approve Ott's selection. Kerr is currently chief of the 400-member Little Rock, Arkansas fire department, where she has served since 1983; she's also a fourth-generation firefighter.

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Fire Department, City Manager, Mark Ott, Rhoda Mae Kerr

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