Obama narrows choice for FEMA director

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Two seasoned state emergency managers have emerged as the Obama administration’s leading candidates to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Florida’s emergency manager Craig Fugate and former Iowa emergency manager Ellen Gordon are the administration’s top two choices, according to two administration officials familiar with White House deliberations on the appointment. Both officials asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.

The announcement is expected within days, one official said.

FEMA has been under public scrutiny since the Bush administration’s botched response to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina turned the FEMA director into a punchline for late-night television comedians.


After Michael Brown was fired by President George W. Bush, Fugate and Gordon were among the names under consideration to replace him.

At the time, Fugate indicated he was happy in his Florida job. Gordon confirmed that she had been approached about the job and said she wasn’t interested because she was not convinced the Bush administration would make FEMA a priority.

Both Fugate and Gordon have more than 20 years of emergency management experience.

As head of Florida’s emergency management agency since 2001, Fugate oversaw the response to several hurricanes, including 2005’s Dennis and Wilma. Gordon was head of the Iowa Emergency Management Agency in 2004 when storms tore across parts of the Midwest, hitting the hardest in Iowa.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who oversees FEMA, stressed the need for the agency to work with local and state emergency managers.

Napolitano is currently in the Midwest surveying the damage from recent ice storms.


Associated Press writer Liz Sidoti contributed to this report.

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