TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz says he would answer the phone if called about leading the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President-elect Joe Biden.
But as he dealt Monday with Tropical Storm Eta in the Gulf of Mexico, Moskowitz wouldn’t say what his response would be or if he’d even publicly acknowledged contact from Biden’s team.
“If the call came, I would answer the phone,” Moskowitz said during an interview at the state Emergency Operations Center, before noting that he hadn’t received such a call.
Besides, “If it rings,” he added, “I probably won't tell you anyway.”
Moskowitz said it’s “extremely humbling” to have his name tossed around as a possible candidate for the federal emergency-management post. But he added the reasons for the rumors are understandable, as he is a Democrat appointed by a Republican governor.
A similar scenario played out when Democratic President Barack Obama moved into the White House in 2009 and appointed Craig Fugate as FEMA director.
Fugate, a Democrat, had been named director of the Florida disaster agency in 2001 by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush.
Fugate, who coordinated the state’s disaster response through the record-setting 2004 and 2005 seasons, oversaw FEMA for eight years.
“I’m sure that’s why people are speculating,” Moskowitz said, adding the FEMA director position might not be high on lists of transition priorities.
“I think the president-elect and the vice president-elect have a lot more on their minds going on over the next couple of months as they try to build their transition team,” Moskowitz said. “You know, who's their secretary of state. Treasury. Not that FEMA isn't important. But you know, look, they got a lot going on.”
Moskowitz, 39, a former state House member from Broward County, has played an important role in the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as overseeing response efforts for more-traditional disasters such as storms.
He was executive vice president and general counsel at AshBritt Environmental when picked for the emergency-management job in December 2018 as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis transitioned into office. AshBritt, a Deerfield Beach-based national disaster recovery and environmental services company, has contracts throughout the state to clean up post-hurricane debris.
Moskowitz, who resigned from the private sector job after getting the state appointment, had overseen the company’s contracting and procurement department.
DeSantis noted at the time that Moskowitz had been called a “high octane incumbent” and “an effective Democratic voice in the Republican-dominated Legislature.”
On Saturday, a DeSantis emergency order formally put Moskowitz in charge of the response to Tropical Storm Eta, the record-tying 28th named storm of this year’s hurricane season.