Two Bay Area cities recently announced the appointment of women to high profile positions overseeing public safety operations.

In Pacifica, Maria Sarasua will become the city’s 11th police chief — the first female leader in the department’s history — replacing Chief Daniel Steidle, who retired last year.

Only 8.3 percent of police chiefs in the U.S. are women, according to, a website that tracks career data.

Sarasua is a Bay Area native who became deputy sheriff in Contra Costa County in 1995 and then a police officer in Pleasanton in 2003, according to the city. She served Pleasanton for 20 years, rising to the rank of police lieutenant.

According to the city, Sarasua’s law enforcement focus has been on trauma-informed care and suicide prevention, forming the nonprofit Bridgewatch Angels organization which saves lives on the Golden Gate Bridge. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego, where she has taught courses for the Master of Science program in Law Enforcement and Public Safety Leadership.

Sarasua will become police chief April 24.

First for Fremont Fire

Meanwhile, Fremont announced it has appointed Zoraida Diaz to become its next fire chief, beginning April 7.

Zoraida Diaz is the newly appointed chief of the Fremont Fire Department. She begins her job on April 7, 2023. (Image via LinkedIn)

A former deputy fire chief of operations, Diaz will be the first female to hold the chief’s position in the Bay Area’s fourth largest, City Manager Karena Shackelford announced last week.

Women make up only 5.8 percent of fire chiefs in the U.S., according to

Her previous work with the department has included partnering with police and other first responders in Fremont to enhance service to the community, Shackelford said in a statement. She has also created incident action plans for civil unrest, public safety power shutoff events, COVID-19 protocols, and organizing response around the area’s recent weather events.

Before coming to Fremont, Diaz worked in the Oakland Fire Department, rising to the rank of assistant fire chief.

Diaz is fluent in Spanish and worked for 15 years as a social worker before becoming a firefighter.

“I am honored to be named Fremont’s next Fire Chief and my mission will be to cultivate a professional environment where civic and employee pride promotes excellence and a workforce that values transparency, equity, inclusiveness and belonging,” Diaz said.