President-Elect Biden Nominates NYC Emergency Management Head Deanne Criswell to lead FEMA

President-elect Biden announced on January 15 his selection of Deanne Criswell as FEMA administrator. Ms. Criswell currently serves as commissioner of the NYC Emergency Management Department, leading the city’s response to COVID-19 and other disasters. She worked previously under the Obama administration at FEMA, where she was the federal coordinating officer and lead on the national incident management team. A press release announcing the nomination stated that she “served as the primary federal representative responsible for leading the agency’s response to and recover[y] from emergencies and major disasters.”

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Ms. Criswell served as head of the Office of Emergency Management for the city of Aurora, Colorado and served 21 years as a firefighter and deputy fire chief with the Colorado National Guard. She was deployed twice, in 2001 and 2010, serving as an advisor on fire protection for military bases in the Middle East. After leaving the Obama administration, Ms. Criswell worked as a homeland security consultant at the Cadmus Group.

Criswell called the nomination an honor and acknowledged the known challenges of COVID-19 and climate change. “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,” she said. “I look forward to this incredible opportunity at this pivotal time in our nation’s history.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio stated that the city’s loss was a gain for the country. “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.”

Ms. Criswell is the first woman nominated to lead FEMA. She will need to be approved by the Senate before assuming leadership of the agency.

Read the Biden transition team’s press release on the appointment at:

An article on Criswell’s departure from the NYC Emergency Management Department is at: