Tonya Boyd, a 26 year Fire Department of New York (FDNY) veteran, was recently promoted to the position of chief of training for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Boyd, who is currently the division chief of the Public Safety Answering Center in Brooklyn, will assume her new duties beginning on April 9th. She will become the first Black woman to hold her new position.
Boyd has steadily grown within the FDNY. She started working at the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) while in college, studying nursing. Boyd has said that a friend convinced her to take the EMT class while in college and she “enjoyed” the course. In 1996, Boyd applied for a position with the FDNY after working for a private ambulance service. In a 2017 interview with Andscape, Boyd says the move to EMS was only temporary, saying the goal was to move back to nursing.
Boyd said, “I intended to come to the department, work there for a year, then go back.” She continued, “My grandmother was a nurse, and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. But after getting into the work and bonding with the people in the Fire Department, I fell in love with it. And here I am, 21 years later.”
Despite the difficulties of working in the FDNY as a black woman, Boyd has continued rising within the department. After working as an EMT for seven years, she took the exam to become a lieutenant. Boyd held the position of lieutenant in the FDNY for four years before being promoted to captain, making her the second female captain in the history of the EMS department. A few years later, she became the deputy chief of the FDNY and her most recent promotion makes her the first Black woman Chief of Training for the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services department.
Boyd, aware of what her promotion meant for women across New York City and the country, made sure to acknowledge the significance. She said, “I really believe this promotion means a lot to the minority women in this department for one, who believed that the highest they could go was lieutenant. An overwhelming amount of women in various fields, not just in fire, have reached out to me and told me how much this has inspired them and encouraged them to reach higher. For me, that has been the biggest reward, getting the feedback from other women and knowing I’ve inspired them.”
The move to promote Boyd comes at a time when FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh is actively making changes in the leadership ranks of the department. The reasons Kavanagh has given for the changes are creating her own team and diversifying leadership positions predominantly occupied by white men. In December 2022, Kavanagh appointed Michael Fields to the position of chief of EMS. Fields became the first black man to hold that position in the FDNY. The FDNY has historically faced lawsuits over a hiring process that allegedly discriminated against women and minorities.
“The FDNY routinely changes member and officer assignments to handle the ever-changing needs of our Emergency Medical Service,” said FDNY Spokesperson Amanda Farinacci.
Boyd replaced Joseph Pataky. Pataky has been reassigned to deputy assistant chief and is responsible for the oversight of the EMS response in both Brooklyn and Staten Island.
The leadership changes in the FDNY have caused dissatisfaction with several senior staffers within the department. Kavanagh demoted a number of chiefs in the department, causing others to ask for demotions and alleging the Commissioner had broken traditional protocol. Commissioner Kavanagh was recently sued in a lawsuit for allegedly treating FDNY employees unfairly based on their age.