Fort Wayne's first woman fire chief will take over for retiring Chief Pete Kelly at the end of June, Mayor Tom Henry said Wednesday.
Assistant Chief Amy Biggs, 42, a 17-year veteran of the Fort Wayne Fire Department, will step into the role June 29, Henry said. She will be the first woman to lead the department in its 173-year history, but Henry said her history with the department made the difference.
"Amy brings an array of experience and great leadership abilities to her new position," Henry said. "The fact that she's a woman certainly adds something as far as diversity, but that was really not that big a factor."
As chief, Biggs will manage a a department of more than 380 firefighters and support staff posted at 18 fire stations. She will oversee fire protection for 110 square miles.
Kelly announced his retirement earlier this spring and originally said he would stay on until August. He said the interview process went smoothly, allowing a quicker transition to a new chief.
Biggs, a Fort Wayne native, joined the department's code enforcement division in 1995 and later served for 12 years as a front-line firefighter. She was promoted to captain and in 2008 was named an assistant chief in charge of human relations.
In her role as assistant chief, Biggs said she gained experience with administrative functions within the department, including policy and personnel issues.
Biggs said she does not have any specific changes or initiatives in mind yet for the department but would be gathering ideas from senior staff as she transitions into her new role.
While she acknowledged the economy remains a challenge to local fire service funding, Biggs said Kelly left the department in good shape with up-to-date equipment and facilities.
"We've been fortunate to maintain the quality of services that we have," she said.
As one of only 40 female fire chiefs in the country, Biggs said she looked forward to inspiring more young women to consider going into the fire service. But she pointed out that other women had broken ground by serving the department before her.
"I think there are a number of women who have paved the way for integration in the department and have proven themselves to be successful," she said.