Ellen Gordon is reported to be one of two finalists to lead FEMA as the director under the Obama administration.
Gordon acknowledged having met with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and having follow-up conversations with Napolitano's staff in recent days.
"We had a good conversation. I found the secretary to be very interested in making the emergency management system in this country what it needs to be," Gordon said. "I was impressed with that. It would be an honor to serve the administration and serve the country in that capacity."
Gordon said the new FEMA director must engage stakeholders at all levels. "Working with the states, with the associations that represent the states, cities and counties and going to their tables and saying, 'From your perspective, what do we need to do, what should we be working on?' I've been a former state director and I continue to be involved with the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) and other organizations. I would hope that I could at least help build that bridge."
Gordon is a past president of NEMA and is currently associate director of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, Calif. She is the former chief of emergency management operations for Iowa and formerly the state's homeland security adviser.
Gordon said to avoid future debacles like the response to Hurricane Katrina, all stakeholders, including citizens, will have to be involved. "The emergency management system in this country needs to be strengthened, and the system is not just FEMA, the states and local governments," she said.
"No matter who's in the position of leadership, it's going to have to come from all directions. It's got to be a unified effort if we're ever going to be truly successful in building a strong emergency management system."