Lacy E. Suiter, 69, of Nashville, Tennessee, one of the nation's most experienced and respected emergency management and homeland security leaders, died August 8, 2006, after suffering a heart attack on July 25. Mr. Suiter is a former executive with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Mr. Suiter's career spanned 40 years during which time he led several federal and state emergency management and homeland security orgzations. Mr. Suiter was a pioneer in the evolution of emergency management and played a significant role in developing it into a professional discipline. He was currently serving as director of executive education programs for the Naval Post Graduate School's (NPS) Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California. At NPS, 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, DC think tanks.
Mr. 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.
Mr. 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 including the national Y2K exercise. He played a key role in the classified national Continuity of Government program and was responsible for the government's multi-billion 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. Mr. Suiter served 30 years with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, and was director of the agency under two governors (from both political parties) from 1982 to 1994. As director, he led the response to numerous disasters in Tennessee, including the Waverly train explosion in 1978. While serving 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. While director of TEMA, Mr. Suiter, along with 6 six other state directors from neighboring states formed the Central United States Earthquake Consortium (CUSEC). His leadership and guidance were instrumental in establishing the organization and its mission. Mr. Suiter served on the CUSEC Board of Directors from its inception in 1983 to 1994, when he resigned to take a position with FEMA. He served as board chairman four different times in addition to holding other positions. Mr. Suiter was instrumental in securing a location for CUSEC in Memphis, which is still used today.
In addition to serving on the CUSEC Board, Mr. Suiter served on the Board of dozens of other 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, and served as president of the National Emergency Management Association from 1984 to 1985 and served on its Legislative Committee from 1985-1994. He was a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and was a retired Air National Guard officer with more than 24 years of service. Mr. Suiter, preceded in death by mother Jessie Mai and father Lacy Suiter, is survived by his wife of 48 years, Norma Jean Suiter, his daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Chuck Gregory of Rockvale, Tennessee, his granddaughters, Tafanie and Crystal, and his brother and sister-in-law, John and Milbrey Burke of Nashville, Tennessee.