Craig Fugate has been called "low-key," "brilliant" and "very in charge."

Though the first two descriptions might be debatable, the third is not: Fugate is undoubtedly the force behind the successful response and recovery efforts during recent natural disasters in Florida.

"Craig Fugate is one of the brightest and most experienced emergency management professionals in the business today," said Trina Sheets, executive director of the National Emergency Management Association. "He is a forward-thinking risk-taker who pushes the envelope with each disaster to deliver aid faster and better to the citizens of Florida."

Fugate led Florida through some of the worst hurricanes in state history in 2004 and 2005, and he's recognized for making Florida one of the best-prepared states for natural disasters. Those efforts earned Fugate the National Hurricane Conference's 2005 Neil Frank Award, which honors excellence in hurricane preparedness, response and recovery.

Fugate helped Florida cut in half its response times to impacted communities during recent hurricanes, but he deflected the personal recognition. Instead, he praised the participants who helped make it happen. The team, he said, is what makes him proud. The state's emergency response team is composed of state agencies, including the Florida National Guard, local government agencies, volunteers and the private sector.

He called the team "one of the best in the nation," and praised the state emergency management system that maximizes its capabilities and recognizes its strengths and weaknesses.

In 1997, Fugate was appointed chief of the Bureau of Preparedness and Response with the Florida Division of Emergency Management. He began immediately building the state's reputation as a leader in mitigating disasters. In 2001, he was appointed director of the Division of Emergency Management, and in 2004, managed the response to some of the largest disasters in Florida history.

His biggest emergency management challenge in Florida? "The unknown."

Jim McKay  |  Contributing Editor

Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine. He lives in Orangevale, Calif., with his wife, Christie, daughter, Ellie and son, Ronan. He relaxes by fly fishing on the Truckee River for big, wild trout.