In Phoenix, women rule: Largest city with female police and fire chief

By Alexandra Zaslow

The city of Phoenix made history after Jeri Williams was hired as police chief and Kara Kalkbrenner as fire chief.

Phoenix is the largest city in the country with both a female police and fire chief.

“They were by far the most qualified and respected candidates, who happened to be women,” Mayor Greg Stanton said. “Anybody can rise to the very top of their organization and that’s just not talk. In Phoenix, we walk the walk.”

Nationally, 12 percent of full-time local police officers and 3.5 percent of career firefighters are female.

“Kara and I both know the tremendous responsibility that comes with being the first female and I’ve learned from Kara to be very gracious at accepting that responsibility,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said.

It’s not just the police and fire departments that females are leading in Phoenix; there are 20 to 30 departments in the city with women in power.

“Phoenix is very progressive and they feel that the leadership team of the city should mirror the community,” Kara Kalkbrenner, Phoenix fire chief, said. “So if you look at the diverse community that we have, we have an extremely diverse workforce.”

Williams believes that Phoenix’s strong connection to community is what makes it different from other cities.

“Every day, we come to work to make a difference,” Kalkbrenner said.

Chief Kalkbrenner and Chief Williams met in junior high school and consider each other best friends.

“We can pick up the phone and have a conversation,” Kalkbrenner said. “There’s an amount of trust that you really need to have in your counterpart.”

“Phoenix is an amazing place to live, but even more amazing [is] where we’re going. We haven’t seen the end of the growth and the potential that the city has.”