New Public Safety Chiefs Understand Houston’s Diversity

ABOVE: Current Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo (left) is named as the new police chief of the Houston Police Department by Mayor Sylvester Turner during a press conference at City Hall Thursday afternoon, Nov. 17, 2016 in Houston. Mayor Turner also named Samuel Pena (right) the new chief of the Houston Fire Department.

By: Mayor Sylvester Turner

In 2017, our Houston police and fire departments will be under new leadership. Art Acevedo of Austin is assuming the position of Houston police chief and El Paso’s Samuel Pena will take over the fire department.

I want to thank Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo and Acting Fire Chief Rodney West for their service. They performed exemplary in dealing with some challenges and we are indebted to them. Chief Acevedo and Chief Pena will be part of the City management team that carries us into 2017 and beyond. We are going to build upon the successes of 2016 and be even more transformative, innovative and responsive.

Not only do I want capable managers, it is also important to have a leadership team at City Hall that is able to understand the different populations they serve. I know there is a lot of concern about the future these days. In Washington we are seeing the transition of power from one administration to another and that has caused worry for some of our residents. Please know that Houston has always been a welcoming city and that is not going to change no matter who is in the White House. I chose Chief Acevedo and Chief Pena because they understand this and share my strong commitment to keeping our residents safe.

Chief Acevedo has served as Austin’s police chief since 2007. His 30 years of law enforcement experience began as a field patrol officer in East Los Angeles. In Austin, he oversaw a department with more than 2,400 sworn officers and support personnel and a $370 million annual budget. He joined the department at a time when relations with minorities were strained due to questionable police shootings. He has been credited for a commitment to police legitimacy, accountability and community policing and engagement. His accomplishments include creating a special investigative unit to criminally investigate officer involved shootings and a new disciplinary matrix. Chief Acevedo holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of La Verne, and is a graduate of the FBI’s National Executive Institute who speaks fluent Spanish.

Chief Pena joined the El Paso Fire Department in 1995 and then rose through the ranks to the position of fire chief, which he has held since 2013. He has previous experience as a fire fighter, paramedic, media spokesperson, advanced medical coordinator, Combined Search and Rescue Team member, Hazardous Materials & Special Rescue Task Force member and academy training chief. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at El Paso. He is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force where he served for four years as an air control specialist. Like Acevedo, he is fluent in Spanish.

We are a dynamic, diverse and growing city. We will keep growing regardless of the policies that are made, and we will continue to nurture our strong connections to the rest of the globe. It’s time for all of us to roll up our sleeves and join together to move our City and country forward. There are many challenges ahead that will need all of our talents and hard work for the benefit of everyone. Chief Acevedo and Chief Pena will be by my side as we tackle what lies ahead. Please join me in welcoming them to Houston!