- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 4, 2009

UPDATED:

NEW ORLEANS — President Obama on Wednesday nominated a Florida emergency manager to lead the Federal Emergency Management Agency and said the government would never again allow the “failures of the past” that the nation saw during Hurricane Katrina.

Craig Fugate, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, is Mr. Obama’s choice for FEMA administrator and will visit the region Thursday with two Cabinet members surveying recovery efforts, the White House said.

The pick drew praise from Florida’s current and former governors, both Republicans, who have seen Mr. Fugate’s work up close.

“It’s a great choice!” former Gov. Jeb Bush told The Washington Times in an e-mail.

Mr. Bush, President George W. Bush’s brother, appointed Mr. Fugate to his current post in 2001.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who offered a show of bipartisanship last month with Mr. Obama in support of his economic stimulus plan, also lauded Mr. Fugate, whom he reappointed to the job, as someone with “poise, calm and professionalism.”

“Through hurricanes and tornadoes and other natural disasters, Craig has been a steady and capable hand,” Mr. Crist said in a statement. “I think I speak for every Floridian when I say it will be great to have a Floridian in this important federal position. Just as he served Florida with such success, I know he will do the same for our nation, wherever disaster strikes.”

In his current post Mr. Fugate oversees 138 full-time staff coordinating statewide disaster response, recovery, preparedness and mitigation efforts.

“From his experience as a first responder to his strong leadership as Florida’s Emergency Manager, Craig has what it takes to help us improve our preparedness, response and recovery efforts and I can think of no one better to lead FEMA,” Mr. Obama said in a statement.

“I’m confident that Craig is the right person for the job and will ensure that the failures of the past are never repeated.”

Mr. Fugate, a Jacksonville native, has worked as a firefighter and served a decade as an local emergency official.

He has been with the Florida emergency team since 1997 and in his current position has overseen 23 state emergencies, including major hurricanes.

Mr. Fugate will join Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan in New Orleans on Thursday.

“FEMA must have experienced leadership to succeed in its challenging mission. Craig Fugate is no stranger to emergency management or to FEMA,” Ms. Napolitano said. “He is one of the most respected emergency managers in the nation, and the work he’s accomplished in Florida serves as a model for other states to follow. He will be a tremendous asset to FEMA and its employees.”

The White House said that in September 2003 Florida’s program became the first to receive full accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.

Mr. Fugate must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

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