‘GMA3’ exclusive: Chicago’s 1st Black female fire commissioner

Annette Nance-Holt discusses her historic role and how she plans to lead the department.
4:46 | 07/20/21

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Transcript for ‘GMA3’ exclusive: Chicago’s 1st Black female fire commissioner
Welcome back to gma3 and we turn to a gma3 first, interview with commissioner Annette nance-holt. She's risen through the ranks since her days a as a firefighter and persevered through the tragic loss of her son and it's our pleasure to say hello to commissioner nance-holt. In recent weeks, we've had the first black female to be the head of the Johnson space center, the first black woman to be the mayor of St. Louis, the first black woman to be an NCAA hockey coach. What is going on with black women these days? Would you say that has now led to you being the first in that 162-year history. Good afternoon. Black girl magic, I want to say that first. The way has been paved by others who didn't reach this rank in the Chicago fire department. I stand on the shoulder of without those people, I wouldn't have obtained this as the first female commissioner of color at the Chicago fire department. I owe a lot of people. You talk about those other people. When you were coming up, you didn't see a lot of those other people. By that, I mean, you didn't know a firefighter, you didn't see a person of color as a firefighter. What happened in you, then, to not see that around you but still go for it? You're right. As a kid, I never did know a black firefighter, like you said, or a woman of color or a woman, period, on the fire department because there were none until 1980 and it was a lone woman. There's something in me that made me very competitive. I was an athlete in high school. I ran with my ex-husband and his brother a lot and they went to take the test and I was like, I can do that. I took the fire test, the police test, and the Illinois state trooper test. I ended up going to the fire department and it was the best accidental decision I ever made in my life. And there are no accidents. That's a great story. Here you are, though. You have put in the time and you have been at the department for some 30 years and risen up through the ranks and held a number of roles. How does that prepare you so well, the different things you've done and how you rose up? How does that maybe you now so prepared to lead? I think they did a national search. I was honored to be selected from a national search for one. For two, just starting out as a firefighter, and I was a lieutenant with three years on the job. So I've actually worked in the field in suppression or operations my whole career, but I've been in training, I've been in fire prevention. Everything before this -- and I have the president of the black firefighters organization which helped groom me toward knowing what we needed and how we get there. A lot of things along the way prepared me for this and my education and my qualifications. And I want folks to hear what mayor Lightfoot said about you. Take a listen. At a time when we still have work to do to eradicate discrimination, racism and sexism from the firefighter and other professions, commissioner nance's appointment couldn't come at a better time. Just you being in that role, just you being commissioner sets a different tone and can help in some of what she was talking about there. Are you making it your mission as well to focus on making sure that you get sexism or any discrimination out of that department and be better? Yeah, that's definitely one of the first things I said I wanted to do was increase all the way up to WRE I am right now as a commissioner and diversifying my ranks. My second in charge is a woman as well, unheard of, and she's a white woman. And she's very qualified. Between her and I, we have over 70 years of experience, almost 75 years together. And then the woman who is the -- the male behind her, he's a black male, and he's over operations. And the woman behind him is a black female and she's over fire prevention bureau. We have a lot of diverse and that was my first job to increasing it and changing the face of the department. Letting people know how I am and what I intend to do. Commissioner, congratulations and what a story, to go from not seeing a firefighter that was a woman or a person of color to know, you're sitting there as a black woman as the commissioner of the department. Congratulations. Good luck down the road. Thanks so much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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