Fla. city's first black female firefighter now first female batt. chief

Chief Clemons: "I don't look at myself as a role model. I just look at myself as a woman who has worked hard, paved the way for me and my family and been a service to the community."

By Alexandra Seltzer
The Palm Beach Post

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — Latosha Clemons, 42, is the first woman to be a battalion chief at Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department. She has worked at the department for 19 years, and started her new position Sept. 7.

Clemons was the first black woman to be hired as a firefighter in Boynton and the first to become a captain and a lieutenant.

Question: Why did you want to become a firefighter?

Clemons: Actually, it wasn't a childhood dream of mine. I actually was interested in working with kids. Then I thought about the police academy. I was encouraged to talk to the fire chief about joining the Boynton Beach Fire Rescue Department.

Q: Do you like it now?

Clemons: I love it.

Q: What do you love about it?

Clemons: I was born and raised in Boynton Beach. All my family's there and I have a lot of friends there. So me being able to give back to my community, serve the people that I grew up with and had a hand in raising me is more than I can imagine.

Q: What are your duties as battalion chief?

Clemons: To manage a shift of 41 personnel. Also incident command, where you go out and respond to emergencies. My duties are to make sure the scenes are managed effectively.

Q: Do you think younger firefighters, women, look up to you?

Clemons: Some people don't choose to see themselves as role models. I don't look at myself as a role model. I just look at myself as a woman who has worked hard, paved the way for me and my family and been a service to the community.

Q: Tell me about some calls you've been on that have stuck out in your mind during the past 19 years.

Clemons: In my earlier years, being born and raised in Boynton Beach, running on friends and family. Certain tragedies that happened to them, whether it's illness, or hit by a car, or shot, some of those things they stick out in your mind, but you just move forward. It's part of the job. Although you're grief-stricken, you're sympathetic, you're empathetic but you still have a job to do.

Q: Where does the position go from battalion chief?

Clemons: We have division chief of training. We have a deputy chief of operations and we have, of course, our fire chief.

Q: Do you hope to be a fire chief one day?

Clemons: God's will.

Q: Has there ever been a woman chief?

Clemons: Not in Boynton Beach.

Q: What goals do you hope to accomplish?

A: Just to ensure that I instill good leadership, managing the shift, hoping to be an authority figure, exercising some constructive positive leadership, ensure that the crews go home safe so they can go back and be with their families and just be a positive, influential person managing my shift.

Q: For those younger women or male firefighters, what do you hope for them to learn from you?

Clemons: Well, whether you're a woman, a man, small, short, that doesn't matter. Just hard work, dedication, perseverance, study. Learn the job, even perimeters outside the job, and just work hard.


(c)2015 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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