The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Feb. 28, unanimously approved Anthony C. Marrone as the next county fire chief, but board members made clear they wanted to see improvements in the numbers of women and people of color in the agency’s ranks.
Marrone has been serving as interim chief of the department since July 2022. He has been with the department for 36 years, previously serving as acting chief deputy over business operations.
His selection as chief was met with opposition from several organizations, including the Women’s Fire League, L.A. County Stentorians and Los Bomberos de LA County, who pointed to systemic failures in the department to bolster diversity within the department and create jobs and advancement opportunities for women and people of color. The groups and others also blasted the Board of Supervisors, saying it failed to hold a thorough, transparent and fair search for a new fire chief.
In a letter to the board, the groups called for a 90-day delay in the vote to allow for a more thorough search for the next chief.
“Opening the process will ensure that diverse applicants from across the nation have the opportunity to apply,” according to the letter. “This will increase the pool of men and women committed to equality and opportunity with the required education and relevant certifications to consider for this critical role.”
Several public speakers at the board meeting also questioned Marrone’s educational background and criticized the lack of female representation in the department — even noting that some county fire stations don’t even have women’s bathrooms. Marrone committed to the board that he would work to continue efforts by his predecessor, Daryl Osby, to improve representation within the agency, “to make sure we can move the needle … to be more inclusive of women and people of color, not only when hiring, but when promoting.”
Marrone said that effort will begin by working to stabilize the department’s budget, which he said needs to be increased to provide a higher level of service for the community. He also conceded the department needs to be streamlined, with a reduction in the overall number of employees. “I have a vision for the fire department that’s going to be more inclusive, but we really need to start with that foundational budget. We need to fix it,” he said.
Board members said they had confidence in Marrone’s ability to improve the makeup of the agency. Supervisor Holly Mitchell told Marrone the agency has had “a historic under-representation of people of color and women.” “I heard you use the word equality, and I want to suggest the focus should be equity, given the historic under-representation,” she said.
Mitchell said she wants “to continue to make strong strides ahead in making sure the fire department is a representative department that reflects the diversity of L.A. County.”
“Please know that I will continue to collaborate with you and hold you accountable for those goals,” she said. “… I fully expect that we make significant gains in that area.”
Marrone responded, “I will be intentional that I will move the needle forward toward more diversity in our fire department. There’s much more work that needs to be done.”
Marrone will earn $441,792 a year as county fire chief.