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 2022 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award is now open. The deadline for submission of the nomination form and required career summary is August 26, 2022.

The 2021 Distinguished Service Award was presented to Mr. Mike Sprayberry on October 14th in conjunction with the NEMA Annual Forum in Cleveland, Ohio.  Sprayberry retired in 2021 from his position as director of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management.  As a 42-year veteran of government service, Mike Sprayberry is well-deserving of this national recognition.

During his tenure as director, Mike Sprayberry successfully led the State Emergency Response Team’s response and recovery efforts for 19 state-declared disasters and 11 federally declared disasters, including Hurricane Florence, now known as North Carolina’s “Storm of Record.”  In just the last four years, Mike has led North Carolina’s recovery efforts from major hurricanes, winter storms, earthquakes, and even a global pandemic.

Under his leadership, N.C. Emergency Management achieved an Enhanced Hazard Mitigation Plan State status which earned the state millions of dollars in additional funding to build resiliency, achieved national reaccreditation for the emergency management program, and has increased the capacity of North Carolina’s Hazardous Materials Response program as well as its internationally renowned Search and Rescue program. 

Mike served as the president of NEMA, a member of the FEMA National Advisory Council, the state’s Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, the Vice-Chair of the State Emergency Response Commission, and a commissioner of the Radiation Protection Commission.

The award was presented by Mr. Brad Richy, director of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management and NEMA Past President.  “Mike has been a friend and mentor to me and dozens of other state emergency management directors.  His willingness to share his lessons learned, lend advice and provide support to others is remarkable,” said Richy.   

Sprayberry leaves a lasting and positive mark on the profession of emergency management. His achievements have been well documented and include being the recipient of two departmental Secretary’s Gold Circle Awards, N.C. Emergency Management Association Colonel William A. Thompson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Emergency Management, the North Carolina Housing Coalition Public Official of the Year, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners Friend of the Counties, and the NEMA Presidential Citation.  He is also a proud member of the North Carolina National Guard Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame.