Annette Nance-Holt Becomes First Black Woman to Lead Chicago Fire Department

Annette Nance-Holt said Chicago's fire department must have firefighters and leadership "that mirrors the communities it serves every day."

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Annette Nance-Holt will become the first woman of color to lead the Chicago Fire Department in the department's 162-history.

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday voted to approve the selection of Nance-Holt, a more than 30-year veteran of the CFD and currently serving as acting commissioner of the department, as Chicago Fire Department commissioner.

"It's official," Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted after the council's vote. "Annette Nance-Holt has made Chicago history by becoming the first Black woman to serve as Chicago Fire Department commissioner."

Prior to her role as acting commissioner, Nance-Holt was named the First Deputy Commissioner in 2018, the first woman to hold that No. 2 role in Chicago. She also served as Deputy District Chief, Battalion Chief-EMT, Captain-EMT, Lieutenant-EMT and as a firefighter.

"Commissioner Holt has more than three decades of proven leadership and a passion for public service that makes her the perfect fit for this role," Lightfoot said in a statement in May, when she announced Nance-Holt's selection. "Furthermore, 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."  

Nance-Holt said in May that Chicago's fire department must have firefighters 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 said in a statement. "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."

Lightfoot praised Nance-Holt as a "procedural and safety-oriented firefighting professional" whose strengths include "fire administration, equipment management, budget management, enforcement of regulations, policies, and procedures related to all facets of fire suppression."

Outside of the department, Nance-Holt is the founder of nonprofit organizations Purpose Over Pain and the Blair Holt Scholarship Foundation. She holds a Master of Science degree in Public Administration/Fire & Emergency Management from Anna Maria College and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Chicago State University.

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