Free Soil native becomes FEMA director. 

April 29, 2021

Free Soil native becomes FEMA director. 

WASHINGTON – Free Soil native Deanne Criswell was sworn in Tuesday, April 28, as the first female administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Criswell is a 1984 graduate of Manistee Catholic High School. She received a bachelor’s degree in technology education and training from Colorado State University and also earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Colorado, Denver, and a master’s degree in security studies from the Naval Postgraduate School

She served in the Colorado Air National Guard from 1992 to 2013. From 2005 to 2011, Criswell was the emergency manager for Aurora, Colorado. She worked at FEMA from 2011 to 2013. Two years later, she returned to FEMA, where she worked on the national incident management assistance team from 2014 to 2017. Criswell became the commissioner of New York City Emergency Management in July 2019.

“Deanne’s career is one of commitment and service to our nation,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “That commitment now rises to the next level of leading the dedicated people of FEMA as they continue working to meet unprecedented challenges. I have full confidence in her ability to lead FEMA with compassion, fairness, integrity, and respect as she works to fulfill the agency’s ever-important mission: helping people before, during, and after disasters. It is my honor to welcome Administrator Criswell to the Department of Homeland Security.”

During the ceremony, Secretary Mayorkas highlighted Ms. Criswell’s extensive career in emergency management and the multiple challenges FEMA faces, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.

Criswell was joined by her partner, Patrick Murphy. Senior Official Performing the Duties of Deputy Secretary, David Pekoske, former FEMA Acting Administrator Bob Fenton, and FEMA Acting Deputy Administrator MaryAnn Tierney also attended the ceremony. Secretary Mayorkas thanked former FEMA Acting Administrator Bob Fenton for his service and leadership.

Criswell was nominated by President Biden on January 15, 2021 and confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 22, 2021. She is the first woman to lead FEMA since its creation in 1979.

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