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With promotions, Boston Fire Department makes strides on diversity

Deanna McDevitt held her 2-year-old son, Tommy, as he played with the pin signifying her promotion to district fire chief. McDevitt is the first woman district fire chief in the history of the Boston Fire Department. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The city Thursday appointed its first-ever black chief of operations for the Boston Fire Department, the No. 2 commander in the organization, as well as the first female district chief — milestones for a department that recently came under fire for its lack of diversity.

Andre R. Stallworth, a 28-year veteran, was named chief of operations for support services, and Deanna M. McDevitt, who joined the department in 2008, was named district fire chief.

“It’s obviously history here today,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “It’s important to understand, when you talk about inclusion and working toward inclusion, it’s a big day for the Boston Fire Department.”


Andre Stallworth, a 28-year veteran, was sworn in as the department’s first-ever black chief of operations for support services.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The appointments came less than a year after a city-commissioned review found pervasive “ locker room talk” and an unwelcoming culture toward women in the largely male ranks of the department, which had only 16 female firefighters out of 1,500 members at the time. Now it has 17 female firefighters.

The review was in response to a series of Globe articles that highlighted a lack of diversity and discrimination within the department.

At the time, Walsh committed to carrying out all of the report’s 21 recommendations, though he noted that state Civil Service laws dictate how the city can recruit and promote firefighters.

The mayor said Thursday the new promotions are “a great step.”

“We’re not going to take a victory lap here, but we’re going to celebrate the first female chief in the Boston Fire Department’s history, that’s a big deal, and the first African-American at the highest level, it’s a big deal in the city,” the mayor said, “and it sends a very strong message that there are opportunities for young people to aspire to, to get into the same roles as we continue to move forward here.”


The new assignments were part of a broader promotion ceremony at Florian Hall on Thursday that saw appointments for each rank within the department, from chief to lieutenant. Robert J. Calobrisi was also promoted to chief of operations in charge of field services; he and Stallworth are the two lead commanders who work directly under Commissioner Joe Finn.

Also, the department promoted Deputy Chief James P. Greene; Deputy Chief Brian P. Tully; District Chief Dennis P. Devlin; Captain Keith M. Kelly; Captain Brian R. Hartigan; Lieutenant Keith M. Wilson; and Lieutenant Nicholas B. Bonaceto.

After the ceremony, Stallworth, 50, said he was honored with the new assignment.

“I’d just like to thank all the people who did their very best to make sure I had the opportunities and challenges that I do,” he said. “I will do my best to make the others who came before me proud.”

McDevitt (picking up her son, Tommy) is a fourth-generation firefighter — her father retired as deputy chief.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

McDevitt, a fourth-generation firefighter — her father retired as deputy chief — declined to comment.

Finn praised her for her accomplishments, saying she “competed in the field, competed in the exam process . . . and excelled.”

“Deanna has earned the admiration and respect of her peers, and most importantly her subordinates,” he said, “because she did this all on her own.”

He also praised Stallworth — saying he was “a great firefighter, [with a] great reputation, he was a trailblazer” — and he called the ceremony “a historic day for the department, on a number of levels.”

“We understand the need, we need to be reflective of the communities we serve,” Finn said. “We’re all about it, and we’re working within the systems to get there.”


Anthony Thompson, a black firefighter and 35-year veteran, who is out on injury leave, attended the ceremony to witness what he called a monumental moment for the city.

He said he worked with Stallworth for 10 years. “He put in the work, he was a smart man,” he said, and he called McDevitt “a tough girl, a good firefighter.”

“It shows you, you can advance, if you put in your time,” he said. “It means it’s open to everyone, no matter your color or gender.”

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at milton.valencia@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.