(Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee video)

Senate Confirms Deanne Criswell as First Woman to Lead FEMA

The Senate confirmed Deanne Criswell to be the next administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency by unanimous consent Thursday.

Criswell is the first woman to lead FEMA since its creation in 1979.

“I congratulate Deanne Criswell on her historic confirmation to lead the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and I am thrilled to welcome her to our team. Deanne is a proven leader on issues related to climate change, emergency management, and disaster response. She brings nearly six years of prior FEMA experience to this role. I look forward to working together to confront our most urgent challenges,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

“I thank Bob Fenton for serving as Acting Administrator of FEMA. Bob’s trusted leadership has been invaluable during the pandemic as FEMA responded to multiple challenges at once.”

Criswell, who was appointed commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department in 2019, was nominated as the next FEMA administrator on Feb. 22. Fenton had been leading the agency as acting administrator since Pete Gaynor left at the end of the Trump administration.

Criswell is a FEMA veteran, having led one of the agency’s National Incident Management Assistance Teams and serving as a federal coordinating officer. She is also the former head of the Office of Emergency Management in Aurora, Colo., and served 21 years as a firefighter and deputy fire chief in the Colorado National Guard.

“I believe in FEMA’s mission of helping people before, during and after disasters, particularly as we seek to bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Criswell told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at her confirmation hearing. “The pathway to a ready and resilient nation requires a shared vision and takes proactive mindset. We must reduce risk through system-based mitigation. We must increase the resilience of our communities so they can adapt as threats change. And we must scale our response to minimize the consequences of disasters and emergencies.”

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