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Senior Advisors

Gracia Szczech

Senior Advisor
Gracia Szczech

Meet Gracia

Gracia B. Szczech is a Senior Advisor specializing in emergency management with more than 30 years of crosscutting experience responding to and recovering from emergencies and disasters.

In 2022 Szczech was named as a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award—the highest honor that can be given to a civil servant—by President Biden in recognition of her years of service in the federal government’s Senior Executive Service. Szczech served as the Regional Administrator for FEMA Region 4 from February 2015 to June 2023, collaborating with partners across eight southeastern states and six federally recognized tribal nations. She successfully managed operations for more than 150 hurricanes, fires, floods, tornadoes, ice storms, and special events, as well as the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Szczech began her tenure at FEMA in 2000 as Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) and previously served as the Operations Section Chief of the Florida Recovery Office in the wake of the destructive 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. Szczech was ultimately the first woman to achieve the prestigious designation of a Type I FCO, FEMA's highest rank of emergency management expertise. Prior to FEMA, Szczech spent four years with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) as Assistant Director of Operations, where she managed contingency planning and radiological emergency and hurricane preparedness.

Szczech’s passion for disaster response was first kindled when she joined the American Red Cross in the 1980s as a volunteer after reading a newspaper article about the organization and the role they played supporting communities and families in crisis. Eventually, she became a staff member based in Savannah, Georgia, garnering extensive emergency management and leadership experience in responding to hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.

Szczech completed the Capstone General and Flag Officer course in 2017 at the National Defense University and is a graduate of the Homeland Security Executive Leaders Program from the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Szczech also graduated from the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative’s Executive Education Program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.