Austin Women of Distinction Spotlight - Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr
Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr
Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr is a fourth-generation firefighter and the first woman to serve as Chief of the Austin Fire Department. An active young girl and sports enthusiast, she received a degree in physical education and was teaching high school in Fort Lauderdale when a friend suggested that she apply for cadet training at the local fire department. It was a turning point in her life, and the start of a stellar career. She earned an associate’s degree in Fire Science Technology and two certifications from Harvard, rising through the ranks to become an officer and then second in command at the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department. In 2004, she became the first female Fire Chief in Little Rock, winning accolades for her innovation leadership. Five years later, she would beat out a group of national candidates to head the Austin Fire Department, where she has won high marks for her innovation, ability to build consensus and community outreach. Chief Kerr is the past chair of the Human Relations Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Director of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers, and actively involved in community organizations including the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Austin Area Urban League.