The Austin Fire Department announced a history-making decision Monday that it is promoting 24-year member and U.S. Army veteran Rebecca "Becky" Ackerman, making her the first female battalion chief in the history of the AFD.
Chief Ackerman is one of 73 female firefighters at AFD out of 1,007 personnel, the AFD said, accounting for 7.2 percent of the workforce. That's more than twice the national average of female firefighters, the AFD reported.
"The 'family' business in my family is the Austin Fire Department," said Chief Ackerman. "There's a long history of public service in my family and I wanted to continue that tradition."
She said her father, Richard 'Sticks' Farris, served more than 29 years, earned the department's first ever Medal of Valor, and was an assistant chief at AFD when he retired in 1997. Her uncle, Dennis Farris, just retired as lieutenant after 32 years, and her brother, Dwayne Farris, is the last civilian dispatcher on staff at the AFD.
"After spending the past two decades gaining the necessary experience, I decided earlier this year that the time was right for me to sit for the battalion chief’s exam and assessment center," Chief Ackerman said. "I’m beyond excited and thrilled to have achieved this goal. I’m grateful to Chief Kerr for the faith she has entrusted to me by promoting me to this position and I look forward to the new challenges -- and opportunities -- ahead."
The AFD said Chief Ackerman's most recent assignment was as captain over AFD's communications section, where she spent the past three years overseeing the Computer Aided Dispatch system and other technologies. She was also in charge of regional compatibility related to 12 Emergency Services Districts throughout the area, as well as other City of Austin public safety city agencies.
Chief Ackerman holds a variety of certifications from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and in the National Incident Management System, the AFD said. She's been honored with a variety of awards, including several Phoenix Awards, which are given to AFD members whose actions result in the resuscitation of a life during a cardiac event, and the Medal of Merit for her work during the Halloween floods of 2013.