Lacy E. Suiter (1936-2006)

David O’Keeffe

ABSTRACT: This past summer, the nation lost one of its most experienced and respected emergency management and homeland security leaders, Lacy Suiter. For more than forty years, Lacy Suiter helped shape the nation’s emergency management system and in recent years guided its fledgling homeland security programs. This issue of Homeland Security Affairs is dedicated to him.

SUGGESTED CITATION:
O’Keeffe, David. “Lacy E. Suiter (1936-2006).” Homeland Security Affairs 2, Article 1 (October 2006). https://www.hsaj.org/articles/160

This past summer, the nation lost one of its most experienced and respected emergency management and homeland security leaders, Lacy Suiter. For more than forty years, Lacy Suiter helped shape the nation’s emergency management system and in recent years guided its fledgling homeland security programs. This issue of Homeland Security Affairs is dedicated to him.

It is often said that emergency management and homeland security are first and foremost about leadership and management. Lacy Suiter was living proof of this maxim. A study of his leadership style provides numerous lessons for today’s homeland security leaders as they work to establish new organizations around shared missions and forge working relationships between diverse agencies and levels of government. Homeland Security Affairs Senior Editor David O’Keeffe had the honor of speaking at a memorial service for Lacy Suiter. Below are excerpts from his remarks, highlighting Lacy Suiter’s hallmark approach to leading organizations and motivating staff by building a culture founded on personal trust, respect, risk taking, and generosity.

Working with Lacy was like no other work experience. Lacy did not believe in co-workers, he believed in family, so when you worked with him you were not joining an office or organization you were joining a family…..

Lacy didn’t just want people to come to work each day, he wanted them to be excited about coming to work and to have fun. He knew how to motivate and encourage people to take risks and tackle difficult problems. Lacy was a man of “big ideas,” always challenging those around him to come up with the next policy or strategy that would make what he called a “quantum leap,” in emergency management or homeland security.

He went out of his way to develop a personal connection with everyone he came into contact with – making sure he remembered where they were from, whether or not they were married or had kids.

Family came first and Lacy’s family was his pride and joy……No conversation with him was complete without him asking how your family was. And if you had been traveling a lot or working long hours, you usually received a scolding and were told to go home ….

Lacy had a talent for bringing people together and making things happen. This was a talent he put to good use after 9/11, assembling teams of subject matter experts to conduct homeland security seminars for governors. It didn’t matter what type of expert was needed; Lacy would make some calls and experts would appear, willing to help out in any way because they knew that if Lacy was involved, it must be important, it would make a difference, and Lacy would make it fun.

Lacy’s secrets to success were simple – he focused on what was best for others, he took the high road and stayed above the fray, and he led by example. His contributions to emergency management and homeland security are legendary. Yet he was always quick to reflect praise and honors on to others – often singling out an individual and declaring, “I want to be just like you when I grow up.”

But in reality, it was always Lacy who set the standard for who many of us wanted to be. Lacy has many legacies but I think the most impressive is the number and diversity of people he influenced during his lifetime. Lacy was one of a kind but thanks to his leadership, mentoring, advice, and friendship, he has left a legacy of thousands of individuals across the nation who, every day, draw on their experiences with him to solve problems, lead organizations, serve the public, and be a role model for others.

You can go to http://www.chds.us/?lspolicyforum for more information on Lacy Suiter’s career and his significant contributions to emergency management and homeland security.


This article was originally published at the URLs https://www.hsaj.org/?article=2.3.1 and https://www.hsaj.org/?fullarticle=2.3.1.

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Homeland Security Affairs is an academic journal available free of charge to individuals and institutions. Because the purpose of this publication is the widest possible dissemination of knowledge, copies of this journal and the articles contained herein may be printed or downloaded and redistributed for personal, research or educational purposes free of charge and without permission. Any commercial use of Homeland Security Affairs or the articles published herein is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the copyright holder. The copyright of all articles published in Homeland Security Affairs rests with the author(s) of the article. Homeland Security Affairs is the online journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). https://www.hsaj.org

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