SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) - The San Francisco Giants honored Joanne Hayes-White, the city's first female fire chief, on Wednesday during her last official public appearance before she retires.
She threw out the ceremonial first pitch during a Giants-Dodgers game.
Hayes-White served for 30 years with the department.
"It's pretty surreal right now. There's been some long days, but generally the years have flown," said Hayes-White.
It's been a distinguished career. She is the longest serving fire chief of any major US city: 15 years.
The San Francisco native exchanged retirement gifts with Giants manager Bruce Bochy. He gave her a Giants jersey. She gifted him a fire helmet.
"The pride that I have in this job..this department. I know I leave it better than I found it. It was one of my goals," said Hayes-White.
In 1990, she began her career as one of the city's first female firefighters. She rose through the ranks.
In 2004, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom appointed Hayes-White as fire chief. She has weathered controversies and challenges. Hayes-White came under fire in 2014 from the firefighters' union and calls for her resignation for slow response times by ambulances.
"It's not a popularity contest. I had to make some tough calls, but they were the right ones. Looking back, I don't have any regrets," said Hayes-White,"As chief, I would never expect anyone to do anything I wasn't willing to do myself or wasn't capable of doing myself. I think that served me really well."
She says she's proud that she has a diverse and talented staff, many whom she hired.
Hayes-White takes great pride in raising her three sons.
She says she hopes she's taught and led by example to them and to young women who look to her as a role model.
Among her last official duties was a ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of a newly rebuilt fire house. There, a KTVU crew captured her demonstrating her abilities as a firefighter.
"I got to slide down the pole from the third floor so it's going out with a bang for sure," said Hayes-White.
The 55-year-old has come full circle. She says as a teenager, she sold lemonade at Giants games. On this night, she closes out her career on the Giants' home turf.
She officially retires May 5.