Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award
|Lacy E. Suiter|
In recognition of the men and women who have dedicated their careers and lives to make citizens and communities safer from both natural disasters and terrorist events, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) presents the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award.
The award is named in honor of Lacy E. Suiter, one of the nation's most experienced and respected emergency management and homeland security leaders.
The prestigious honor is presented annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions throughout his or her career to any or all facets of emergency management. This includes the areas of preparedness, mitigation, response, or recovery at a local, state, regional, or national level. The career accomplishments should be of unusual merit.
|Lacy E. Suiter's widow, Norma Jean,
accepts the first Suiter Award.
The field of emergency management has grown and changed significantly since its early days of "civil defense" in the 1940s. At that time, emergency managers dealt primarily with threats of nuclear attack. By the 1960s, the focus grew to include natural disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. This was followed by a renewed interest in domestic defense in the 1980s. The next decade saw a re-focus on natural disasters. After the events of September 11, 2001, the attention shifted to terrorist attacks. Now professional emergency managers are hopeful that the tide will turn to what they have been calling on for several years: an all-hazards approach to disasters.
Skill sets for the professional emergency manager have also evolved. Today's emergency manager must be knowledgeable in planning, training, finance, and administration while also having the ability to work with changing political leadership in his or her state, region, or specific jurisdiction.
All emergency management agencies, departments, and organizations are invited to submit nominations for the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award.
The 2021 Distinguished Service Award was presented to Mr. Mike Sprayberry on October 14th in conjunction with the NEMA Annual Forum in Cleveland, Ohio. Sprayberry retired in 2021 from his position as director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management. As a 42-year veteran of government service, Mike Sprayberry is well-deserving of this national recognition.
During his tenure as director, Mike Sprayberry successfully led the State Emergency Response Team’s response and recovery efforts for 19 state-declared disasters and 11 federally declared disasters, including Hurricane Florence, now known as North Carolina’s “Storm of Record.” In just the last four years, Mike has led North Carolina’s recovery efforts from major hurricanes, winter storms, earthquakes, and even a global pandemic.
Under his leadership, N.C. Emergency Management achieved an Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan State status which earned the state millions of dollars in additional funding to build resiliency, achieved national reaccreditation for the emergency management program, and has increased the capacity of North Carolina’s Hazardous Materials Response program as well as its internationally renowned Search and Rescue program.
Mike served as the president of NEMA, a member of the FEMA National Advisory Council, the state’s Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, the Vice-Chair of the State Emergency Response Commission, and a commissioner of the Radiation Protection Commission.
The award was presented by Mr. Brad Richy, director of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management and NEMA Past President. “Mike has been a friend and mentor to me and dozens of other state emergency management directors. His willingness to share his lessons learned, lend advice and provide support to others is remarkable,” said Richy.
Sprayberry leaves a lasting and positive mark on the profession of emergency management. His achievements have been well documented and include being the recipient of two departmental Secretary’s Gold Circle Awards, N.C. Emergency Management Association Colonel William A. Thompson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Emergency Management, the North Carolina Housing Coalition Public Official of the Year, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Friend of the Counties, and the NEMA Presidential Citation. He is also a proud member of the North Carolina National Guard Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.
For over 30 years, Ellen Gordon has been selflessly serving the national emergency management profession at all levels of government and within academia. Her career began at the county level in Missouri which quickly lead to her service as the Iowa Governor's Homeland Security Advisor and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Administrator for 18 distinguished years of service.
Throughout her career Gordon has been asked to provide her unique critical analysis and experience on numerous national policy committees and commissions, serving as a member of the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council, the National Advisory Council for FEMA, and the National Homeland Security Consortium. She also served as the President of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), as well as one of the initial Chairpersons of the NEMA Homeland Security Committee. In addition, she served as a member of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving WMD (aka The Gilmore Commission).
She is the recipient of the Curtis H. "Butch" Straub Award for exemplary academic achievement and leadership from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). She was recognized for her homeland security and emergency management leadership as evidenced by her induction into the International Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management Hall of Fame. She is a recipient of the U.S. Army Commanders Award for Public Service and U.S. Army Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service for her meritorious performance. Ms. Gordon is a recipient of the Iowa National Guard Distinguished Service Medal for her contribution and dedication to the State of Iowa. In 2003, Ellen led the creation of the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture, a consortium bringing together emergency managers, veterinarians, and departments of agriculture from 15 midwestern states to reduce vulnerability to emerging threats in the food and agriculture sectors.
In 2006, Ellen Gordon created the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Executive Leaders’ Program in order to advance critical thinking, the importance of evidence-based knowledge and to inspire innovation in policy and strategy development amongst leaders of the emergency management and homeland security domains. Gordon continues to serve as the program manager and lead facilitator and to date has educated over 1,000 executives and managers. She is also responsible for creating programs specifically for the Radiological Emergency Preparedness community and, most recently, the Emergence Program dedicated to providing advanced and high-level leadership skills to those just entering the emergency management and homeland security workforce.
Ellen’s professionalism, accomplishments and candor have been consistently recognized and lauded over her distinguished career and for the last 14 years she has been dedicating herself to “giving back” to her profession through the development and delivery of relevant, innovative educational programs.
Ms. Gordon is a graduate of Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri with a Bachelor of Science degree in Law Enforcement and Corrections (Criminal Justice) and holds a Master of Arts in Security Studies (Homeland Defense and Homeland Security) from the Naval Postgraduate School.
During the 2018 Annual forum in Savannah, Georgia, NEMA presented Mr. Stan McKinney with this year’s Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award. This is in recognition of McKinney’s over 25-year career making a national impact in the fields of emergency management and homeland security. Stan McKinney’s career spans all 3 levels of government from being elected twice as coroner in his South Carolina hometown, to serving as policy advisor to Governor Campbell, leading the South Carolina emergency management division for 9 years, and serving on a detail assignment to the U.S. Department of Justice as a senior emergency management advisor for state and local preparedness issues. Under his leadership at the Emergency Management Division, Stan led the conversation to an all-hazards statewide comprehensive emergency management system. He implemented a statewide mutual aid agreement and guided the state’s EMAC legislative efforts. He’s known for modernizing the state emergency management program. McKinney served as the president of NEMA from 1997-1998 and provided exemplary leadership on national policy, strategic and operational emergency management issues. With an eye to the future and a recognition of the need to further professionalize emergency management, he commissioned the development of a white paper on emergency management standards and accreditation that eventually led to the establishment of the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP). According to NEMA Executive Director Trina Sheets, McKinney’s most significant contribution to emergency management came at a critical time for the nation. “Few people may know about or understand the invaluable influence that Stan provided on behalf of the states during his detail from the State of South Carolina to the Department of Justice. It was at the time that the initial homeland security grant programs were being developed and DOJ had never worked with emergency management. His insights and guidance were instrumental in making sure state and local emergency management needs were understood and addressed in those early days.” McKinney also provided direct support to states on the development of their initial Homeland Security State Strategic Plans and worked directly with the Senate appropriations staff following September 11 to identify necessary funding requirements and state support strategies. He then served on a DOJ initial planning group for the creation of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at the Naval Postgraduate School to enhance critically needed homeland security education following the attacks on 9/11. After CHDS was created, Stan served as Associate Director and then Director of Executive Education and was instrumental in creating and then delivering hundreds of homeland security workshops, seminars and training for senior state, territorial, local and federal officials. NEMA congratulates Stan McKinney on his outstanding career and is proud to name him the 2018 Distinguished Award recipient.
The National Emergency Management Association has presented the 2017 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award to Glen Woodbury, Director of the Naval Post Graduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense & Security. The honor was given to Woodbury on October 1, 2017 during the association’s Annual Emergency Management Policy and Leadership Forum held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The award is presented annually by NEMA to an individual that has made cumulative outstanding contributions to the field of emergency management. For more than 25 years, Glen Woodbury has been a leader in the emergency management and homeland security field. From his tenure as the state director in Washington to his service at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Glen has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to the field of emergency management and the men and women who serve in the profession.
Mr. Woodbury served as the Director of the Emergency Management Division for the State of Washington from 1998 through 2004. In this capacity, he directed the state’s response to numerous emergencies, disasters and heightened security threat levels since his appointment by the Adjutant General and the Governor. Mr. Woodbury was the Director during the World Trade Organization disturbance in Seattle in 1999, the Nisqually Earthquake in February 2001, the TOPOFF II Exercise in 2003, the national response to the attacks of September 11th, and many other natural and manmade emergencies and disasters. He is currently the Director of the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, a position he has held since 2007. This premier program has been instrumental in leading the nation’s executive level development for homeland security leaders since its inception in 2002.
Mr. Woodbury is a Past President (2002-2003) of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA,), which represents all state and territorial emergency management directors in the development and advocacy of national policy, strategic and operational issues. As President of NEMA, Woodbury helped to create the National Homeland Security Consortium, a unique collaboration among 21 national associations to address the nation’s complex homeland security challenges. Woodbury remains an active member of NEMA and the Consortium. According to Trina Sheets, NEMA Executive Director, those who know Glen know how deep his dedication is to this profession and those we collectively serve. “There are few people who have impacted, promoted and advanced the fields of emergency management and homeland security more than Glen Woodbury. Lacy Suiter would be very proud.”
Glen Woodbury served in the US Army as a communications officer from 1985 until he began his emergency management career in the State of Washington as an operations officer in 1992. Prior to his selection as the agency’s director, he managed the state’s Emergency Operations Center for two years. He has also served as a volunteer firefighter in East Olympia, WA.
NEMA congratulates Glen Woodbury on receiving the 2017 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award.
The National Emergency Management Association has presented the 2016 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award to W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency. The honor was given to Fugate on October 4, 2016 during the association’s Annual Emergency Management Policy and Leadership Forum held in Chicago, IL. The award is presented annually by NEMA to an individual that has made cumulative outstanding contributions to the field of emergency management.
Mr. Fugate has dedicated his career to serving those in need and advancing the field of emergency management. His service as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic, county emergency manager, and state emergency management director uniquely qualified him to create lasting, positive change as the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the last 7+ years. His work on the front lines and in the leadership of emergency services has touched thousands of lives and lessened suffering in times of great need.
Throughout his career, Mr. Fugate has played an integral role in shaping the profession. He has championed the whole community approach to emergency management, emphasizing and improving collaboration with all levels of government (federal, tribal, state, territorial and local) and external partners, including voluntary agencies, faith based organizations, disability community, the private sector, and individual citizens. He has also raised the profile of emergency management nationally and earned the trust and confidence of President Barack Obama, Congressional, tribal, state, territorial, and local officials.
In addition to county fire and emergency management roles in Florida, Mr. Fugate served as Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). He built capabilities and implemented no-notice “Thunderbolt” exercises to ensure division personnel were prepared to respond. As the State Coordinating Officer for 11 Presidentially-declared disasters, he managed more than $4 billion in Federal disaster assistance. In 2004, Fugate managed the largest Federal disaster response in Florida history as four major hurricanes impacted the state in quick succession; Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne. In 2005, Florida was again impacted by major disasters when three more hurricanes made landfall in the state; Dennis, Katrina and Wilma. The impact from Hurricane Katrina was felt more strongly in the gulf coast states to the west but under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Florida launched the largest mutual aid response in its history in support of those states. Under Fugate’s stewardship, the FDEM program became the first statewide emergency management program in the nation to receive full accreditation from the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.
NEMA congratulates W. Craig Fugate on receiving the 2016 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award.
Maxwell began his career in 1978 as a temporary employee at the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and eventually rose to the level of director. Today he’s the longest tenured director in the history of ADEM and has served under three governors. Over his 37 year career in emergency management, Maxwell has witnessed and contributed to the evolution of the profession having dealt with issues resulting from the nation’s largest disasters including Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He’s been a leading voice in the national dialogue and has testified before Congress on a number of emergency management related issues.
David Maxwell is a past president of NEMA and currently chairs the Emergency Management Assistance Compact Committee and the Past President’s Committee. He also sits on the Governor’s Homeland Security Advisory Council under the National Governors’ Association and chairs their Catastrophic Disaster Preparedness Committee.
MG Lowenberg served as Chair of Homeland Defense and Homeland Security of the Adjutants General Association of the United States; immediate past national chairman and member of the Executive Committee of the Governors Homeland Security Council, chairman of the National Guard Bureau Security Cooperation Activities General Officer Advisory Council, chairman of the National Guard Bureau Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear General Officer Advisory Council, senior member of the NGB Counter Drug Enterprise General Officer Advisory Council; and Chair of the Governor's Domestic Security Sub-Cabinet. He has also served as Chair of the Governor's 2010 Winter Olympics Task Force Security Committee and founding Tri-Chair of the National Homeland Security Consortium - a coalition of more than two-dozen public and private sector national associations.
General Lowenberg is a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps. He was commissioned in 1968 concurrent with receipt of a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Iowa. He earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from the University of Iowa, College of Law in 1971 and has served as Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Puget Sound School of Law and Seattle University School of Law since 1973 and as a guest lecturer in other Seattle University programs.
In his previous assignment as Air National Guard Assistant to The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force, General Lowenberg oversaw the formulation, development, and coordination of legal policies, plans and programs affecting more than 114,000 Air Guard members in more than 1,100 units throughout all 54 States and Territories. In addition, he coordinated the accession, training, and deployment of all Air Guard judge advocates and paralegals and was responsible for developing and executing the worldwide civil affairs mission of the United States Air Force.
During his 12-plus years with the DPS, Colley was involved in the response and recovery to many of Texas’ largest incidents, disasters and emergencies, including the Space Shuttle Columbia crash (2003) and Hurricane Rita (2005) and Hurricane Ike (2008). Colley coordinated the effort to shelter thousands of Katrina evacuees in 2005 and then led the monumental evacuation of more than 3 million Texas residents as Hurricane Rita threatened the southeast Texas coast only weeks later.
In 2008, the Texas Division of Emergency Management responded to six hurricanes and tropical storms within a 90-day period. These storms included Hurricane Dolly, which devastated the Lower Rio Grande Valley July 23 and Hurricane Ike, which washed over Galveston and the southeast Texas coast on Sept. 13.
Under Colley’s guidance, Texas led the nation in a number of initiatives to make disaster response “quicker, faster, smarter,” which included work on systems to improve tracking of special needs evacuees and improved processes for safe re-entry of evacuees after the storm.
Colley also served as the Assistant Director of the Texas Office of Homeland Security and was the State Administrative Agent for all Federal Homeland Security Programs within Texas. Colley was a member of the Governor's Homeland Security Council, the First Responder Advisory Council and the Critical Infrastructure and Key Resource Protection Council. He was chair of the Texas Drought Preparedness Council.
Colley served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1997, retiring as a Colonel before joining DPS. He served in several positions of significant responsibility, including Chief Operations Officer for the Second Brigade and Headquarters, lst Cavalry Division and Division Chief for Strategic Planning for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Department of Defense. Colley was a graduate of the U. S. Army War College and the Command and General Staff College. Colley earned a bachelor’s degree from East Texas State University in Commerce and a master’s in business from Abilene Christian University.
Joseph F. Myers, a mentor and inspiration for hundreds of state and local emergency managers, received the 2010 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award at NEMA’s 2010 Annual Conference in Little Rock, Arkansas, in October.
Myers’s career in emergency management spans 30 years at the state and local levels. He began his career in North Carolina, where he advanced to the position of state emergency management director. In the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, then-governor Lawton Chiles recruited Myers to serve as Florida’s emergency management director. In that role, Myers revamped the state’s emergency management system, which became a model for the nation.
During his three decades of service, Myers has presided over more than 29 presidentially declared disasters and thousands of state-declared disasters and emergencies.
Myers is the only individual to be named state emergency management director in two states and to serve twice as NEMA president, representing two different states.
NEMA congratulates Joe Myers on this prestigious national award.
The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) named Richard Andrews as the 2009 recipient of the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award. This is the top honor presented annually by NEMA to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to emergency management and whose accomplishments over a career are of unusual merit.
Richard Andrews has a long and illustrious career in the emergency management field. His service over state, national, and international boundaries. He continues to be a leader and guide to his peers in NEMA, often providing a pragmatic and honest perspective based on his experiences managing major disasters.
From 1991 to 1998 Andrews was director of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) for the State of California. During that time, Andrews managed the response and recovery operations for the 1991 Oakland-East Bay Hills firestorm; the 1992 Los Angeles riots; the 1992 Landers-Big Bear earthquakes; the 1993 Southern California firestorms; the 1994 Northridge earthquake; and winter storms and floods in 1992, 1995, 1997, and 1998. As the State Coordinating Officer for these events, he was responsible for negotiations between the state of California and the federal government for all disaster recovery programs.
Andrews served as a member of the president’s Homeland Security Advisory Council under President Bush, as director of the California Office of Homeland Security and Homeland Security Advisor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and as a member of the FEMA National Advisory Council.
Prior to his appointment as Director of Emergency Services, Andrews served as executive director of the California Seismic Safety Commission, advising the governor and legislature on earthquake mitigation policy and legislation. He received Ph.D. and Master's degrees from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and a B.A. degree from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana.
Andrews continues to be active in emergency management and homeland security. He has served as Senior Director, Homeland Security, for NC4, a California-based technology company focused on advancing public-private sector collaboration. As a member of The World Bank’s Disaster Management Operations Group, he served as a member of the assessment team and project development group responding to the impacts of the August 1999 earthquake in Turkey and the December 1999 earthquake in Algeria. He has received numerous appointments and awards from Turkey’s president and office of prime minister for his role as advisor and task leader, assisting with the implementation of a new national emergency management system there.
Andrews served as president of the National Emergency Management Association from 1995 to 1996. He continues to be active as a past president and until only recently was the chair of the Private Sector committee.
Leon K. Shaifer was named as the 2008 recipient of the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award. This is the top honor presented annually by NEMA to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to emergency management and whose accomplishments over a career are of unusual merit.
Shaifer began his public service career in 1974 when he was appointed director of the Coahoma County Emergency Management Agency. In 1986, he was appointed director of the Plans and Operations Division of the State Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) in Jackson, Mississippi. During his tenure with MEMA, he directed the response and recovery operations for countless governor-declared state emergencies, 36 disasters declared by the Small Business Administration, and 22 major disasters declared by the president of the United States. He was appointed State Coordinating Officer and Alternate Governor’s Authorized Representative by the governor for 12 major declarations. In 1996, he was appointed deputy director and given responsibility for executive oversight of the day-to-day operations and functions of the agency. Shaifer retired as deputy director on June 30, 2004, after having served five governors.
Shaifer’s long list of accomplishments include representing FEMA Region IV on the National Task Force to develop the first report to the U.S. Congress on legal issues in emergency management. He served on the FEMA/NEMA jointly sponsored project to develop the Model and Standards for State and Local Emergency Management Programs and the first Capability Assessment for Readiness evaluation document.
Shaifer is a past president and lifetime member of the Mississippi Civil Defense/Emergency Management Association, past chair of the NEMA/FEMA National Hurricane Strategy subcommittee, and past state representative on the FEMA Region IV Regional Interagency Steering Committee, and he was named Assistant National Exercise Director for RESPONSE '95, the first federal/multi-regional/multi-state-level hurricane exercise ever conducted in the United States. In addition, he is a past chair of the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC) Program Managers; past chair of the EMAC Operations Subcommittee and Executive Task Force, and past EMAC Lead State Representative for the FEMA Region IV states. Shaifer has also been an assessor for the Emergency Management Accreditation Program (EMAP).
In 2003, NEMA awarded Shaifer special recognition for his contribution to the development, growth, and success of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). During its 2004 session, the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives recognized Shaifer for his 30 years of public service as an emergency manager. He is a recipient of the Mississippi Distinguished Civilian Service Medal: the highest recognition awarded a civilian by the governor and the adjutant general of the Mississippi Military Department. Governors of both Kentucky and Alabama have commissioned him Honorary Colonel.
Since his retirement, Leon has been affiliated with NEMA as the EMAC senior advisor, a position in which he provides expert advice and guidance on EMAC and mutual aid-related issues.
Dale W. Shipley was named the 2007 recipient of the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award. Shipley has served his country with considerable honor for over 45 years. He began as a career infantry officer after graduating from the United States Military Academy. Highlights of his service include two tours of duty in Vietnam, where he was decorated for heroism; Commander of the Army's Jungle Warfare Training Center, and service on both the Department of the Army and United States Military Academy staffs. Shipley retired from the military with 26 years of service.
As an emergency management professional, he served Ohio governors Celeste, Voinovich, and Taft as emergency management director for 11 years and was appointed by President Clinton to serve as director of the FEMA Region V Office located in Chicago. During these appointments, in addition to traditional disaster response and recovery activities, he developed significant new mitigation capabilities, increased communication and warning infrastructure, constructed a state-of-the-art emergency operations center for Ohio, developed the first capabilities and needs assessment, critical infrastructure list, and Homeland Security strategy for Ohio Homeland Security.
While serving as the Ohio emergency management director, Shipley held positions within NEMA, including president and Legislative Committee chair. His service in these two positions set the standards for all who followed. His lengthy Legislative Committee chairmanship was instrumental to the success of NEMA and all of emergency management. He singlehandedly brought the entire profession from obscurity and anonymity to prominence and influence in the halls of Congress, the White House, and state Houses across the nation. His tireless efforts to retain and expand attention, funding, and essential policies for critical emergency management services were exceeded only by his ability to bring partners and stakeholders to the challenge.
Shipley is a consummate leader who, throughout his career, mentored, befriended, and led professionals, both young and seasoned. Throughout his professional career, Shipley always adhered to the old military dictum of "mission, men, me." He consistently and has passionately served his country, his state, his professions, and his colleagues without thought of any personal gain or ambition.
NEMA awarded the first Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award posthumously to Lacy E. Suiter, one of the nation's most experienced and respected emergency management and homeland security leaders. Suiter died in 2006; his widow, Norma Jean, accepted the award on his behalf.
Suiter was a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a retired Air National Guard officer with more than 24 years of service. His career in emergency management spanned four decades, during which time he led several federal and state emergency management and homeland security organizations. Suiter served 30 years with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and was director of the agency from 1982 to 1994, working under two governors of two political parties. As state emergency director, he led the response to numerous disasters in Tennessee, including the Waverly train explosion in 1978. While in this position, he also directed and coordinated international disaster mitigation and emergency operations in Brazil, Italy, Japan, the former Soviet Union (including Chernobyl), Armenia, Costa Rica, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Suiter served on the board of directors of dozens of organizations in the emergency management field, including the National Academy of Science's Board on Natural Disasters, the Advisory Board of the University of Colorado's Natural Hazards Center, the Peer Review Committee of the Yucca Mountain High Level Radioactive Disposal Project, and the Latin American Partnership. Mr. Suiter also chaired the Central United States Earthquake Consortium from 1983 to 1994. Suiter served as NEMA president from 1984 to 1985 and was a NEMA Legislative Committee member from 1985 to 1994.
Suiter was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 to serve as the Executive Associate Director for Response and Recovery at FEMA. He was retained by President George W. Bush and served FEMA until his retirement from the federal government in late 2001. During his FEMA service, Mr. Suiter was responsible for planning and executing the federal government’s response and recovery operations to hundreds of natural disasters and acts of terrorism. He served as the chair of the federal government’s Catastrophic Disaster Response Group, the senior interagency organization overseeing major disaster assistance to state and local governments. Suiter directed FEMA’s terrorism preparedness and planning activities and led several terrorism preparedness exercises throughout the United States, playing the role of the president of the United States on several occasions. He played a key role in the classified national Continuity of Government program and was responsible for the government's multibillion-dollar Individual and Public Assistance disaster grant programs. Prior to his appointment as Executive Associate Director, Mr. Suiter was the Director of FEMA’s Office of Policy, Assessment and Regional Operations from 1994 to 1996.
Suiter was a pioneer in the evolution of emergency management and played a significant role in developing it into a professional discipline. At the time of his death, Suiter was serving as director of executive education programs for the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California. There he directed graduate-level seminars for the nation's governors, mayors, and other senior officials. He was also a consultant to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and several Washington, D.C., think tanks.