NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Mayor Justin Elicker named interim New Haven Police Chief Renee Dominguez the city’s new police chief Wednesday. If the Board of Alders approves her appointment, she will become the first woman to be the permanent chief of the department.

Dominguez has been acting chief in New Haven since June 2021. She oversees the entire New Haven Police Department, which includes 325 sworn officers and supervisors.

“Chief Dominguez has proved herself as a strong leader and the right person for the job,” Elicker said.

We sat down with Dominguez in her corner office just after the announcement.

“You can do whatever you want, and you can be whoever you want to be,” Dominguez said. “And that’s what this position here today means. And it means for all the little girls, and it means for all the women in the New Haven Police Department, and everybody in the community who wants to be a police officer — you can do it.”

She talked about the policewomen who lay the groundwork ahead of her and the young recruits who will follow in her footsteps.

“Always do the extra,” she urged. “You can do what gets you by, but that doesn’t get you to chief, that doesn’t get you to the next step in your career, whatever that may be.”

Dominguez has been a police officer since she was 21-years-old in November 2000. She began her career with the Newtown Police Department before transferring to the New Haven Police Department in October 2002.

Dominguez previously held the ranks of Patrol Officer, K9 Handler, Peer Support Coordinator, Hostage Crisis Negotiator, Patrol Sergeant, Patrol Lieutenant, District Manager of Westville, Fair Haven, and Newhallville, Lieutenant in the Detective Bureau, and Assistant Chief of Patrol/Operations.

Elicker also appointed Regina Rush-Kittle, who currently serves as the state’s deputy commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, as New Haven’s new chief administrative officer.

Both women are mothers, both historic appointments.

“The history of this vibrant city inspires me, and I am committed to New Haven,” Kittle said.

“We are going to be a powerhouse of females,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez, a mom of two, is adept at balancing a high-profile career while being present for her girls, ages 6 and 3.

“There are times when I’m checking emails just because I have a minute when I should be playing Legos, or I should be doing something with my girls,” Dominguez said. “So, it’s the balance for me that I struggle with. I struggle personally, but I don’t know if I struggle outwardly to them. I think it’s more of mom guilt.”

She gets through it with the help of a village: Her sister, her mom, her in-laws, and, of course, her husband, Manny. The two met at the police academy two decades ago.

“I’m grateful. I couldn’t do it without his support.”

Dominguez is excited and honored for her permanent appointment as New Haven’s top cop. But she’s got no time to spare in continuing to lead the department through the lingering shadow of the global pandemic and historic increase in crime.

“That’s our number one priority,” she said. “We need the city to be safe. We need the kids to go to the park, we need you to go outside and ride your bike and be safe and moms and dads to be comfortable knowing that they’re able to do that. We’re going to rebuild capacity at the police department. Rebuilding that capacity is going to help with all those other pieces…I’m just happy I started these projects and I’m going to be able to see them through, and someone isn’t going to have to pick up my vision. My vision is going to continue with the team I’ve put in place. It’s really exciting.”

The mayor will submit the appointments of Dominguez and Rush-Kittle to the Board of Alders for confirmation.