MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee's fire chief revealed his nomination for assistant chief is a woman who has already made history.
Chief Aaron Lipski officially announced his pick is Deputy Chief Sharon Purifoy-Smoots, the first Black woman to hold the deputy chief title in MFD's history.
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According to the National Fire Protection Association, women make up less than 10% of the country's fire service.
If confirmed by the city's Fire and Police Commission, Lipski believes Purifoy-Smoots will become the highest-ranking African American woman in fire service throughout Wisconsin.
"I felt it was important to show people who look like me, or even don't look like me, that hard work pays off. It shows the growth of the fire department," Deputy Chief Purifoy-Smoots said when asked why she wanted to take this next role.
"She comes with an astonishing educational pedigree, but more than that she brings a personality and a character and effect that people are drawn to," Lipski said. "She has a heart that is enormous, far outsizes her. She cares so deeply about the City of Milwaukee."
Lipski emphasized that Purifoy-Smoots was not chosen because she is an African-American woman, but they are celebrating the significance of this moment and its impact.
"The fact that she is African-American and female is an enormous value - add on top of the things that skyrocketed her to the top, to begin with," Lipski noted.
With current Assistant Chief Andy Timm stepping down, Purifoy-Smoots prepares to step up to the challenge.
"It does feel like a major challenge because you want to do well. When you're the first, you're being looked at. There are people who wonder, 'why her?' So I want to show them. I'll show you why me," Purifoy-Smoots said.
If all goes well, Purifoy-Smoots expects to be in her new role by mid-May.