Houston Puts Two Latinos In Charge of Key Public Safety Departments

Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Thursday that he has named Art Acevedo for the police chief position and Samuel Peña as head of the Fire Department, which places two Latinos in charge of key Houston public safety departments. This is in addition to Ed Gonzalez, another Latino, being the Sheriff-elect of Harris County. 

Both Acevedo, form Austin, and Peña, from El Paso, will assume their positions pending City Council confirmation.

"Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo and Acting Fire Chief Rodney West have performed exemplary in dealing with some challenges and we are indebted to them for their service," said Mayor Turner. "I had said all along that once we reached solution to our pension problems, I would move quickly to fill key positions. This is the team that will carry us into 2017 and beyond. We are going to build upon the successes of 2016 and be even more transformative, innovative and responsive."

Acevedo has served as Austin's police chief since 2007. He 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 holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration from the University of La Verne, is a graduate of the FBI's National Executive Institute and speaks fluent Spanish, according to his public profile.

Peña 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 also says he is fluent in Spanish.


The Houston Firefighters Union released a statement this morning wishing Peña well, but calling on him to: "Address our public safety challenges, not add to them."