President Biden nominates CSU alumna Deanne Criswell to head FEMA

Deanne Criswell
Deanne Criswell

On Jan. 15, President Joe Biden nominated Deanne Criswell, a Colorado State University alumna, as the next administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

If confirmed, Criswell will be the first woman to take the agency’s helm since its creation in 1979.

Having strategically led disaster planning and recovery efforts with FEMA for nearly six years under the Obama administration – from severe flooding in North Dakota to wildfires in Colorado – Criswell is no stranger to the agency and its work.

“I am incredibly honored to be nominated to be the next FEMA administrator,” Criswell tweeted shortly after President Biden announced her nomination. “I look forward to serving all Americans in this role.”

Ready, willing, able

Criswell transferred to CSU in 2001 with a drive to become the first in her family to receive a postsecondary degree. In 2003, she secured her Bachelor of Science in technology education and training, a degree program offered by the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Construction Management until 2004.

She earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of Colorado Denver in 2006 and a Master of Science in Homeland Security and Defense from the Naval Postgraduate School in 2011, further equipping herself for an impactful career in public service and administration.

From 2005 to 2011, Criswell managed the Office of Emergency Management for the City of Aurora – Colorado’s third-largest city – where she led numerous emergency and disaster planning efforts, including the coordination of transitional housing and family reunification for roughly 2,000 evacuees displaced by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast only a few months after she started in the role.

Criswell also brings 21 years of service as a firefighter and deputy fire chief with the Colorado Air National Guard, with numerous deployments to the Middle East.

In July 2019, after a two-year stint in private consulting, Criswell transitioned into her current role as New York City’s commissioner of emergency management, where she manages the city’s readiness plans for major events and its response to and preparation for emergencies and natural disasters. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she coordinated the delivery of critical aid, relief and guidance to NYC residents.

Holding pattern

Nominees have yet to be named for 14 of the Department of Homeland Security’s 18 positions, and only one of the remaining four has been confirmed: Alejandro Mayorkas, as secretary. Two of the remaining three positions will hold over from the Trump administration, making Criswell the next DHS nominee to be confirmed.

As of Feb. 22, Criswell’s nomination was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has yet to schedule a hearing.

Track the status of Criswell’s confirmation via the Congress.gov nomination portal.