Laura Kavanagh, who became the first female commissioner of the Fire Department of New York on Thursday, hopes her appointment will pave the way for other women to hold the role in the future.
“This moment – me being first – only matters if I am not the last,” said Kavanagh.
Having a woman in this role is a change, she said, but with it comes the opportunity for the department to grow stronger.
“This is a new look for the New York City fire commissioner, but we should remember that our department has changed very much over its 157-year history, and it had always emerged better for it over the years,” said Kavanagh.
In her time with the FDNY, Kavanagh has helped lead the agency’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2015 and the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020.
Kavanagh assumed the role of acting fire commissioner in February, when former Commissioner Daniel Nigro announced his retirement.
She was also responsible for directing a firefighter recruitment campaign that yielded the most diverse applicant pool in the department’s history and led to more women serving as FDNY firefighters than ever, according to the FDNY.
Before serving at the FDNY, Kavanagh worked in New York City Hall as a special assistant to form New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Kavanagh’s appointment comes after that of New York City Police Commissioner, Keechant Sewell, who became the first woman leader in her department’s history when she was appointed in 2021.
“Gender should not define who we are and what we could become,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Adams also addressed the men of the FDNY, saying they should be proud of the message sent by supporting women leaders.
“You’re sending a message to every agency and administration across the globe that the FDNY is the most important fire department in this country,” said Adams. “And when you say as men in this agency, that you will follow the leadership no matter what the gender may be, you are raising your standard as firefighters.”
CNN has reached out to the FDNY Union for comment.