WASHINGTON — Less than two years into a tenure marked by five major hurricanes, multiple lethal wildfires and a tense relationship with his boss, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator William “Brock” Long resigned Wednesday “to go home to my family,” as he put it in an official statement released by the agency.
Peter Gaynor, who has served as Long’s deputy, will assume acting administrator duties.
“This is one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make. Thank you for an incredible journey and for the support you have shown me,” Long wrote in a letter to FEMA staff.
Long clashed with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen last September, when Nielsen appeared intent on forcing Long out of his job in the middle of hurricane season.
Just as Hurricane Florence began slamming into the Carolinas, the bitter feud intensified as an internal investigation became public, conducted by the inspector general from Nielsen’s department who were looking into Long’s use of government vehicles to travel between Washington and his home in North Carolina.
Long at one point amid the storm told others at FEMA he was on the verge of quitting.
“It was FEMA personnel who convinced him not to quit,” said one congressional aide briefed on the matter at the time.
Long, who had many years of experience in emergency management, easily won Senate confirmation when nominated to the FEMA post two years ago.
He was plunged into crisis almost immediately, when Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas and dropped multiple feet of rain, flooding Houston and killing dozens of people. That was followed quickly by hurricanes Irma and Maria and controversy over the administration’s response to the latter’s devastation in Puerto Rico, which led to a death toll of nearly 3,000.
This past year saw two more epic hurricanes, Florence and Michael, and fatal wildfires in California. Meanwhile Long became entangled in the controversy over his use of government vehicles.
Long’s improper use of government resources cost taxpayers $94,000 in staff salary, $55,000 in travel expenses and $2,000 in vehicle maintenance, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general determined last year.