The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Friday to make Ralph Terrazas the city's new fire chief, following back-to-back hearings where he laid out his plans for the battered agency.
Terrazas, an assistant fire chief who was nominated to the top job by Mayor Eric Garcetti, said his top priorities will be improving emergency response times, restoring department resources and diversifying the workforce so that it more closely resembles the city's population.
A 31-year fire department veteran, Terrazas told lawmakers he plans to pursue programs that mentor Los Angeles high school students and encourage them to join the firefighting profession. He also promised to resurrect a program that sends fire department recruiters to college-level women's athletic teams.
When that program existed previously, "we looked at rowers, we looked at softball teams and soccer teams. We recruited [athletes] to come to our training facility...and escorted them through the hiring process," Terrazas said. "Many of the female captains we have today are a product of the female tutorial program."
Terrazas is taking charge of a department that has faced criticism over its slow progress in hiring women and minorities, lagging response times and outdated technology.
Terrazas said he plans to make the department more technologically sophisticated by hiring a chief technology officer and ensuring managers become more skilled in using data to improve response times.
Council members said they welcome Terrazas' arrival at the department, which lost hundreds of employees during the recent recession. "We're asking for a leader to rebuild," said Councilman Mitchell Englander, who heads the council's public safety committee.
Terrazas was born in Wilmington and currently lives in San Pedro. Garcetti was scheduled to administer the oath of office to Terrazas at 1 p.m. today, formally making him chief.