A First! Donchez Taps Woman to Lead Bethlehem Fire Department

Mayor-Elect Bob Donchez has nominated Jacqueline Lilley-McCammon to be chief of the Bethlehem Fire Department.

Jacqueline Lilley-McCammon Credit: Patch File Photo
Jacqueline Lilley-McCammon Credit: Patch File Photo
By Daryl Nerl

Jacqueline Lilley-McCammon continues making history.

First she became the first female firefighter in Bethlehem's history in 1988. Then she became the first female captain in department history in 2010.

That was just for starters. In July, Lilley-McCammon was sworn in as an assistant chief—a first for women in the Lehigh Valley, Mayor John Callahan declared at the time.

And now, Mayor-Elect Bob Donchez has nominated her for the top job—chief of the city fire department.

Donchez, who made the announcement at a press conference Monday, told Patch he is impressed with Lilley-McCammon's "solid credentials." He also said that when he considered Lilley-McCammon, he saw "leadership."

"When you look at her resume, it's so balanced. She's so qualified," Donchez said, adding she made a strong impression during interviews with him and his transition team.

He also said that based on his conversations with city firefighters, Lilley-McCammon is "well-respected by the men in the department."

And, echoing the history theme, Donchez pointed out that this will be the first time the city of Bethlehem will have two female cabinet members -- Lilley-McCammon and Alicia Miller Karner, whom he's nominated as community and economic development director.

Lilley-McCammon, 49, lives in Bushkill Township and is a native of Monroe County. Her husband, Marvin McCammon, is a former firefighter, currently captain of Pennsylvania Water Resuce, and well-known among area fire crews, especially in the Slate Belt.

At the time of her July promotion, Jacqueline Lilley-McCammom was asked if she ever faced trouble dealing with men in the male-dominated world of firefighting. Her response: “It depended on the guy.”

When she joined the department, “there were some old-timers who didn’t think I belonged there,” she said. “And there were some guys who were OK with it.”

One of the biggest problems is privacy, she said. Only one of the city’s fire stations has a ladies room and depending on where she was stationed, a call from Mother Nature could only be answered after doing a head count of her on-duty colleagues, she said.

Also at Monday's press conference, Donchez announced that he is retaining Ralph Carp as director of parks and public property. The mayor-elect said that Carp got a strong recommendation from his transition team.

One of Carp's assets, he said, is his knowledge not just of recreation but of managing public property as well as building and maintenance.

Monday's announcement is not the first time Donchez has announced his selections for various department heads. Previously announced were his selection of Miller Karner in community and economic development; Lt. Mark DiLuzio to head the police department; David Brong, the head of water and sewer resources, as the new business administrator; engineer Ed Boscola as Brong's replacement, and the retention of Michael Alkhal as public works director.

Donchez also noted that his transition team, co-chaired by Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli and Bethlehem attorney Jim Broughal, have a deadline of Friday (Dec. 20) to submit their reports on various city departments.


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