Black Woman Becomes First Female Fire Chief in Prince George's County
|thenorthstar||Aug 6, 2019|
Tiffany D. Green will become the first Black woman to lead the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS department in Maryland, county officials announced.
Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks (D) confirmed Green would assume the position after Fire Chief Benjamin Barksdale retires in the fall. Barksdale, who has served for more than 35 years of fire service, led Prince George’s Fire and EMS for nearly three years, The Washington Post reported.
Barksdale, 54, said at a press conference on July 30 that it was time for him to slow down. “This is a relay, as I explained it,” he said. “I’m handing off the baton to Chief Deputy Green.”
Alsobrooks praised Barksdale for being a compassionate member of the community after moving from Arlington nearly nine years ago. Barksdale served as a battalion chief after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and worked in Arlington for 24 years.
“He came here with a strong reputation, and he is leaving with a very strong reputation,” Alsobrooks said.
Green, 44, will take over as interim chief when Barksdale officially leaves the department on October 31, according to The Washington Post. If Green is confirmed by the Prince George’s County Council, she will be the department’s 13th fire chief and the first Black woman to lead the force.
As fire chief, Green will assume command of one of the nation’s busiest departments, with nearly 900 career firefighters and 1,000 volunteer firefighters.
“What I am most excited about is Chief Deputy Green is here this morning not because she is a female and not because she is a Prince Georgian but because she is qualified,” Alsobrooks told reporters. “She is best qualified at this point to lead this department.”
Green earned bachelor’s degrees in public safety and biology and a master’s in emergency and disaster management, The Washington Post reported. After volunteering for the Oxon Hill Volunteer Fire Department, Green began working with the Prince George’s County Fire Department in March 1999, Fox 5 DC reported.
Green served in several roles during her career, working as a firefighter, paramedic, station commander, and deputy fire chief. She was previously in charge of the training and leadership academy and oversaw the high school cadet program. In November 2018, Green was appointed as the chief deputy of the fire and EMS department, becoming the “highest ranking female fire official in the history” of the department.
According to The Washington Post, Green acknowledged that women are often faced with obstacles in the predominantly male profession. However, she said it was her mission to be a “trailblazer,” “regardless of the challenge.” She noted that once the uniform was on, “You can’t tell if you’re a man or a woman.”
“One of the benefits is that I’ve come up through this department,” Green said at the press conference. “I’ve come up through the ranks. My experience, my integrity speaks for itself.”
She added: “I believe I can lead this department.” Green did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.
Black women around the country have been making gains in various appointed and elected public offices. In May, Philadelphia voted to elect Rochelle Bilal as the first Black female sheriff in the 181-year history of the office.
Bilal, a 27-year veteran of the Philadelphia Police Department, defeated two-term Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams by more than 20,000 votes during the May 21 Democratic primary. The 61-year-old also serves as the president of the Guardian Civil League, a Black police advocacy group, and as secretary to the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The Democrat is not set to face a Republican challenger during the general election in November, but could face opposition if an independent qualifies for the ballot. She is scheduled to take office in January.
Once elected, Black women can also face institutional challenges in office. When Tracey Gordon defeated 40-year veteran Ronald Donatucci in the Democratic primaries for Philadelphia’s Register of Wills position, the office’s majority white staff said it was looking to unionize. The announcement, which prompted suspicions, came after decades of at-will employment.
Philadelphia Democratic Committee Chairman Bob Brady told The Philadelphia Tribune that employees were concerned about job security and that the move was not suspicious. “I don’t think it’s racial at all, he said.
Like Bilal, Gordon likely will not face a Republican challenger in November.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.