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Biden taps NYC’s Emergency Management boss Deanne Criswell as next leader of FEMA

New York City Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell has been nominated to serve as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Photo courtesy of Biden Transition Team

Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell was tested like never before in 2020, as she helped the city respond to a global pandemic, two tropical storms, heat waves, snowstorms, fires and other calamities that befell the city.

In retrospect, the year seemed to adequately prepare Criswell for the next stage of her career — as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the post to which President-elect Joe Biden nominated her on Friday. If confirmed, she’ll be the first woman to head up the bureau.

Criswell previously made history as New York City’s first female emergency management commissioner when she took the job in 2019. She previously served FEMA as a federal coordinating officer and head of one of the agency’s national incident management response teams.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Friday that the city’s loss of Criswell was a gain for the country. She’ll take the FEMA administrative post at a time when the country remains racked by COVID-19, with nearly 400,000 Americans dead of the illness and hospitals across America running on fumes, with their rooms overflowing with sick patients.

“The American people deserve leaders like Deanne Criswell,” de Blasio said. “Deanne has been a fearless, expert, and deeply respected voice in this administration. I’m proud of all she has accomplished in New York City, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do in her new role.”

Criswell called the nomination to the FEMA administrator post an honor while acknowledging the known challenges of COVID-19 and climate change, and the unforeseen challenges that may come the country’s way in the years ahead. 

“As we face the devastating impacts of COVID-19, as well as the increasing threat of climate change, it is imperative that FEMA addresses these challenges with innovative ideas to serve all Americans fairly and equitably. I look forward to this incredible opportunity at this pivotal time in our nation’s history,”  Criswell added. “I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of New York City at NYC Emergency Management. It has been my privilege to lead this terrific agency through these unprecedented times.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, Criswell has helped ensure continuity of operations while also securing healthcare infrastructure capacity, food access, resource management and non-congregate sheltering, according to the Mayor’s office.

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