Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award

Lacy E. Suiter

In recognition of the men and women who have dedicated their careers and lives to make citizens and communities safer from both natural disasters and terrorist events, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) presents the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award.

The award is named in honor of Lacy E. Suiter, one of the nation's most experienced and respected emergency management and homeland security leaders.

The prestigious honor is presented annually to an individual who has made outstanding contributions throughout his or her career to any or all facets of emergency management. This includes the areas of preparedness, mitigation, response, or recovery at a local, state, regional, or national level. The career accomplishments should be of unusual merit.

Lacy E. Suiter's widow, Norma Jean,
accepts the first Suiter Award.

The field of emergency management has grown and changed significantly since its early days of "civil defense" in the 1940s.  At that time, emergency managers dealt primarily with threats of nuclear attack.  By the 1960s, the focus grew to include natural disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. This was followed by a renewed interest in domestic defense in the 1980s.  The next decade saw a re-focus on natural disasters.  After the events of September 11, 2001, the attention shifted to terrorist attacks.  Now professional emergency managers are hopeful that the tide will turn to what they have been calling on for several years: an all-hazards approach to disasters.

Skill sets for the professional emergency manager have also evolved. Today's emergency manager must be knowledgeable in planning, training, finance, and administration while also having the ability to work with changing political leadership in his or her state, region, or specific jurisdiction.

All emergency management agencies, departments, and organizations are invited to submit nominations for the Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service in Emergency Management Award.

The nomination period for the 2021 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award has closed. Nominations for the 2022 Lacy E. Suiter Award will open on July 6, 2022.

For over 30 years, Ellen Gordon has been selflessly serving the national emergency management profession at all levels of government and within academia. Her career began at the county level in Missouri which quickly lead to her service as the Iowa Governor's Homeland Security Advisor and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Administrator for 18 distinguished years of service.

Throughout her career Gordon has been asked to provide her unique critical analysis and experience on numerous national policy committees and commissions, serving as a member of the DHS Homeland Security Advisory Council, the National Advisory Council for FEMA, and the National Homeland Security Consortium. She also served as the President of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), as well as one of the initial Chairpersons of the NEMA Homeland Security Committee. In addition, she served as a member of the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving WMD (aka The Gilmore Commission).

She is the recipient of the Curtis H. "Butch" Straub Award for exemplary academic achievement and leadership from the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). She was recognized for her homeland security and emergency management leadership as evidenced by her induction into the International Women in Homeland Security and Emergency Management Hall of Fame.  She is a recipient of the U.S. Army Commanders Award for Public Service and U.S. Army Civilian Award for Humanitarian Service for her meritorious performance. Ms. Gordon is a recipient of the Iowa National Guard Distinguished Service Medal for her contribution and dedication to the State of Iowa.  In 2003, Ellen led the creation of the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture, a consortium bringing together emergency managers, veterinarians, and departments of agriculture from 15 midwestern states to reduce vulnerability to emerging threats in the food and agriculture sectors.

In 2006, Ellen Gordon created the NPS Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Executive Leaders’ Program in order to advance critical thinking, the importance of evidence-based knowledge and to inspire innovation in policy and strategy development amongst leaders of the emergency management and homeland security domains. Gordon continues to serve as the program manager and lead facilitator and to date has educated over 1,000 executives and managers. She is also responsible for creating programs specifically for the Radiological Emergency Preparedness community and, most recently, the Emergence Program dedicated to providing advanced and high-level leadership skills to those just entering the emergency management and homeland security workforce.

Ellen’s professionalism, accomplishments and candor have been consistently recognized and lauded over her distinguished career and for the last 14 years she has been dedicating herself to “giving back” to her profession through the development and delivery of relevant, innovative educational programs.

Ms. Gordon is a graduate of Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri with a Bachelor of Science degree in Law Enforcement and Corrections (Criminal Justice) and holds a Master of Arts in Security Studies (Homeland Defense and Homeland Security) from the Naval Postgraduate School.