James Lee Witt has been at the forefront of disaster and crisis management for over 25 years. As Director of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1993-2001, Witt was responsible for the agency’s overhaul. His leadership abilities have been praised by numerous nationally recognized organizations, including the Council for Excellence in Government, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the National Association of Broadcasters. In 1996, Witt became the first FEMA head to be elevated to a Cabinet position.
During his tenure, Witt transformed FEMA into an effective disaster response agency that provides hands-on assistance to those at risk, both before and after disaster strikes. FEMA adopted a new emphasis on customer service under his leadership -- providing communities and businesses with skills, knowledge, services and technology to minimize damage and loss from all kinds of natural and man-made disasters. Witt led FEMA through more than 348 Presidential declared disasters in more than 6,500 counties in all 50 states and territories, including the most costly flood disaster in the nation's history, the most costly earthquake, and a dozen damaging hurricanes.
A native of Arkansas, Witt's professional career began with the formation of Witt Construction, a commercial and residential building company. After 12 years as a successful businessman and community leader, he was elected County Judge for Yell County, serving as the chief elected official for the county, with judicial responsibilities for county and juvenile court. At age 34, he was the youngest elected official in Arkansas, and was later honored for his accomplishments by the National Association of Counties. After being re-elected six times to the position, Witt was tapped by then-Governor Bill Clinton to assume leadership of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services.
Currently, as President of James Lee Witt Associates, LLC, Witt provides local governments, the international community, corporations, hospitals, universities, and other non-profit organizations with innovative disaster mitigation solutions, including planning and preparation. The firm also offers a complete range of recovery services in the event of natural and manmade disasters. Other services include distinctive marketing and strategic advice. Presently, Mr. Witt is writing a book based on his first-hand experience dealing with disasters and how his common-sense approach to government can be applied to the everyday citizen.