Black firefighters organization installs first female president

She signals shift in stance on hiring of city chief

January 04, 2002|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

An organization that represents black Baltimore firefighters installed its first female president last night - a paramedic and 14-year veteran of the department.

Sheri J. Luck, who had served as first vice president of the Vulcan Blazers for the past four years, said she wants the organization to be "more aggressive" in its efforts to obtain "equality within the department."

The Vulcan Blazers was founded in 1970 and represents about 400 black Baltimore firefighters. The organization in recent years has lobbied for the hiring and promotion of minorities within the department's ranks.

The organization was backing Carl E. McDonald, the department's acting chief, to get the job on a permanent basis. But McDonald withdrew his name from consideration several months ago.

Lt. Thurman Pugh, former president of the Vulcan Blazers, said the group had been urging officials to look for a black candidate for the post from outside the department. "An African-American would know what we've gone through," Pugh said.

The city's first black Fire Department chief, Herman Williams Jr., retired in February and Mayor Martin O'Malley has not named a permanent replacement.

Luck, who was elected president by the group's members, signaled a possible shift last night in the Vulcan Blazers' stance on the hiring of a fire chief.

Luck said she was not going to push officials to look outside the department or for an African-American to fill the chief's job. Luck said she hoped officials would hire someone who was "capable of doing the job fairly, the best person for the job. ... It doesn't matter what color."

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