At a Glance
- Career History:
Emergency Management Division (2001 to 2009); Deputy Director, Florida Emergency Management Division (1997 to 2001); Alachua County Emergency Manager (1987 to 1997)
- Hometown: Alachua County, Fla.
- Alma Mater: Florida State Fire College
Path to Power
Fugate comes from a long line of Florida residents; he can trace his roots back to Spanish land grants. He grew up in Alachua County, located in North Central Florida, where he was an active member of Future Farmers of America. During high school, in addition to breeding cows, Fugate volunteered as a firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father and uncle.
Fugate attended the Florida State Fire College, and then started as a paramedic with Alachua County. He quickly rose in the ranks to fire department lieutenant and was appointed as the county's emergency manager in 1987.
Fugate has his own measure of how quickly an area in Florida recovers after a hurricane. "If a Waffle House is open, it means several things. There's power and there's water. So you keep going,'' Fugate said. "If a Waffle House is closed . . . that's pretty bad. Something has shut 'em down. And if they are open and they have a limited menu, it generally means the power has been out for a while because everything in the freezer has melted."
This locally-focused, practical approach is one of Fugate's hallmarks. He has developed an emergency management system that relies on state and local officials to respond in organized, practiced ways.
Fugate is popular with Florida's top politicians. He was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who has praised Fugate's management vocally. Current Gov. Charlie Crist (R) reappointed Fugate "enthusiastically."
However, unlike past FEMA administrators, Fugate has no relationship with President Barack Obama. President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush both named political confidantes to the job.