HUNTINGTON BEACH (CNS) - The Huntington Beach Fire Department today named its first female Marine Safety Division captain.
Leslie Schwene's promotion comes five days after the Los Angeles Fire Department swore in its first woman chief, and the announcement included the city of Huntington Beach acknowledging that ``the HBFD and fire profession in general has remained largely a male dominated profession.''
``In recent years, the HBFD has prioritized hiring diverse and well- qualified candidates, resulting in an increase of female department personnel and the promotion of females to leadership roles within the HBFD,'' according to the city's statement.
The HBFD and its Marine Safety Division have about 400 employees combined, including full-time and part-time workers, but a specific breakdown of its male-to-female ratio was not immediately available, city Public Affairs Manager Jennifer Carey told City News Service.
``I am proud of the efforts our city's fire department has put into adding more women and diversity to first responder staff,'' Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize said in a statement.
``It is so important that we show our youth that regardless of background or gender, you have opportunities to achieve whatever career you aspire to.''
Schwene, 29, is a 12-year veteran of the fire department who began her career as a lifeguard. She will now supervise some 20 ocean lifeguards, assist in the management of the department's Community Risk Reduction Program, oversee marine safety community outreach and support employee training and development, according to the city.
In her career, she has stockpiled numerous commendations, including the HBFD Marine Safety Commendation for Surfers' Awareness in Lifesaving Techniques in 2017 and the HBFD Marine Safety Employee of the Year Award in 2019.
In 2020, Schwene was assigned to the Emergency Operations Center for COVID-19 response, and last year was assigned to the EOC as a planning chief for the city's response to the oil spill that occurred off the Huntington Beach coast.
`Leslie has done a phenomenal job since joining the department in 2010,'' said Fire Chief Scott Haberle. ``Her positive attitude, adaptability, intelligence and ability to remain level-headed in any situation has made her a valuable part of our city's fire department. I am hopeful that Leslie is the first of many female marine safety captains we see within the HBFD.''
Schwene has a bachelor's degree in business administration from USC and a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from Georgetown University.
The HBFD's Marine Safety Division provides public safety to the city's Main Beach and Sunset Beach.