Heather Senti will go down in history as being Nassau County's and Lakeview's first female fire chief.
Senti, 27, was elected Thursday by an overwhelming majority of members of the to the top leadership spot. She moves up from the assistant chief position that she was voted into and replaces Michael Koppel at the helm. (Salvatore Sinatro was elected to assistant chief.)
Fighting fires is in Senti's blood. Her grandfather, Frederick Senti, was an active member for more than 50 years before he passed away (The Lakeview firehouse has since been named in his honor.) and he inspired her father to join at the age of 18. As kids, Senti and her younger brother, Freddy, would often pretend they were firefighters while playing together, and eventually they followed in their father's and grandfather's footsteps.
Eight years ago she joined the Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department. She also went on to receive a Master's degree in Emergency Management from Adelphi University in 2006 and now works for Nassau County's Office of Emergency Management.
When the results were read Thursday night, Senti realized that her election to Chief of Department comes exactly 50 years after her grandfather and 30 years after her father were voted into the same position.
"When you grow up as a 'firehouse kid' you can always imagine yourself as several things: the chief, the nozzle-man at a big fire, or the guy who runs in to save the baby," she said when asked if she ever thought this day would happen. "I am thankful that this opportunity has come and proud to serve as chief with my brother as captain."
Some of her main goals as chief are to enhance her department's capabilities by upgrading training materials, equipment and education, she said. She also wants to work on collaborating more with neighboring departments.
"I am excited for the year ahead," she said. "With my loved ones serving as my fellow officers, I'm sure we are in for some interesting challenges."
And as Nassau County's first woman fire chief, her message to all the ladies out there is this: "Don't think you are limited because you're a female. If you can physically and mentally do the job, the opportunities are limitless. Strive to be better than the best."