Jessica Smith comes to FEMA with an extensive background in public interest communications, campaign strategy, policy development, and congressional relations. As the director of the Office of External Affairs at FEMA, she manages the Offices of Public Affairs, Legislative Affairs, Intergovernmental Affairs, Private Sector Outreach, and Disaster Operations.
Before coming to FEMA, Smith served as a senior spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice, as a strategic media advisor for the Civil divisions within the Department, focused on matters pertaining to violence against women, civil rights, tribal justice, historic minority farmers settlements, prisoner reentry, the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and the federal government’s home foreclosure negotiations. Smith also worked closely with the nation’s 94 U.S. Attorneys as a primary communications consultant, including work on high profile cases such as U.S. vs. Jared Loughner in Arizona. Prior to working at the Justice Department, she was the Communications Director for Senator Jim Webb of Virginia where she managed the Senator’s press team and oversaw media and communications strategies for his Senate office and his 2006 campaign for the U.S. Senate. While in the Senate, she engineered a bipartisan, multi-organizational strategy to build public and legislative support for Senator Webb’s successful Post-9/11 GI Bill for America’s newest generation of veterans—a hallmark accomplishment of the 110th Congress. She has also worked for Representatives Tim Holden and Anthony Weiner and Senator Tom Harkin.
Smith worked for a number of years in the private sector executing communications strategies for organizations and non-profits. She has managed congressional campaigns and worked on international elections. In 2000, she was political director for the Gore presidential campaign in Wisconsin and assisted the chairman of the 2000 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.
Smith graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Government. She is a native of South Florida, and she is no stranger to hurricanes and other natural disasters.