Whenever you write a post like the one I posted yesterday on Security Debrief, heralding the dramatic improvements that FEMA has made in its engagement of the private sector, there is always the risk of forgetting or not mentioning someone who helped make that success possible. I guess that’s why all of those music and Hollywood-type celebrities when they nervously take the center stage to accept an award make an almost obligatory apology to all of the people they should have mentioned but for reasons that escape them at the moment somehow forgot the names of those who made their particular moment possible.
Well, I’m not nervous, and I’m not getting any award here, but I was remiss in not mentioning a name of someone else who deserves recognition for helping make the FEMA private sector engagement turnaround possible. That name is Cindy Taylor.
Cindy was the first person to lead the FEMA Private Sector Office. In fact, it was what you might call a battlefield promotion of sorts for her. In 2007, amidst all of the post-Katrina reforms that were underway, Cindy was safely and successfully doing her job as the Deputy Director of FEMA Public Affairs when she got a call from the front office that can only be described as a “growth opportunity.”
For those of you who ever had assignments such as these that have come down on high from the mountain, you know what I am talking about. A “growth opportunity” is one of those jobs where there is no model or playbook to follow; no staff to assist you and zero budget to make things happen. It is all guts, gumption and a pat on the back as you are instructed to “Go make things happen.”
For the next year and a half, Cindy and the small team of people with whom she would beg, borrow and steal would literally start the foundation of the success that is growing and operating at FEMA today.
It was remiss of me to not mention her as I should have. Her work in what can only be described as less than optimal starting conditions was critical to what is happening today at FEMA. No building or organization can begin without a foundation, and Cindy was at the core of today’s success. She can certainly take great pride in what is happening there today.