By Stan Finger

Wichita is going from its first African-American fire chief to its first female fire chief.

Tammy Snow was appointed head of the Wichita Fire Department on Thursday after a national search, City Manager Robert Layton announced. Snow, who has been with the department for nearly 30 years, has been serving as interim chief since July, when longtime chief Ron Blackwell retired.

"I am not only honored and humbled to be selected...but extremely excited to be provided the opportunity to enhance the department's exceptional services through innovation and capitalizing on opportunities," Snow said in a prepared statement. "My successes are a direct reflection of the stellar personnel composing the department and with their help, I look forward to creating a fire service department that not only exceeds community expectations but industry standards."

Snow is the 14th fire chief in the city's history. As fire chief, Snow will oversee a budget of nearly $46 million and about 425 employees. The Wichita Fire Department serves more than 382,000 residents, responding from 22 fire stations.

"Chief Snow recognizes the exceptional service already provided by the Wichita Fire Department and will build on that record to create a nationally recognized department," Layton said in a prepared statement. "Her collaborative leadership style and dedication to excellence is well suited to address the issues and challenges facing a 21st century Fire Department."

Snow taught at Wichita's North High for seven years before becoming disenchanted, she said in a story published in The Eagle in 2008.

A friend of hers was a firefighter, and she always found his stories fascinating. She took the physical agility test candidates must pass in order to be eligible "just to see if I could do it," then was accepted into the academy and hired by the Fire Department.

Snow began with the department in 1988 as a firefighter. She rose through the ranks until she was appointed a division chief in 2011, where she directed the operations division.

When she was promoted to deputy fire chief in 2012, she said she still thinks of herself as just a firefighter.

In announcing Snow's promotion in 2012, Blackwell called her "one of the hardest-working, conscientious and dedicated public safety servants I have ever known."

(c)2017 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)