Get to Know the Claims Office Staff: Advocate Paula Gutierrez

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Paula Gutierrez

Paula Gutierrez

Advocate, Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Claims Office

Paula is a member of the Pueblo of Santa Clara and their former Director of Emergency Management. She was a FEMA Tribal Relations Specialist/Tribal FIT and Co-Chair of FEMA’s Tribal Affairs Work Group.

What motivated you to apply for this position?

Santa Clara had fire and/or flood events in 2011, 2012, two in 2013, and one in 2014. The damage breached all our water control facilities, the ponds, totally devastated our way of life, our cultural and traditional properties, and the habitat for the wildlife we rely on. We live off the land, same as the communities that were impacted by the Hermit’s Peak/Calf Canyon fires. I relate to their loss. The people impacted by the fire really needed someone strong, who’s there for them and willing to stand up and go to bat for them and get them the resources that they need. I helped Santa Clara build up their emergency management department from the ground up. I can help tailor our support to the specific needs of the impacted communities and the individual claimants within those communities.

What's the most important thing you want people to know?

We care about this community, we’re from this community, and we want to help. It’s ‘us’ rather than ‘you’ and ‘them.’ We’re doing this together. I’m going to work with my team, who are all local and have a lot of experience in the area, to build or restore the relationship with the community by being present and getting involved. Another key part of this role is being able to speak up and advocate for the claimants and help address concerns and proactively find ways to resolve issues ahead of time. We’re going do whatever we can to help make it work within the limits of the law.

Which FEMA core value do you resonate with the most?

It wouldn’t be just one; it would be compassion and respect. Growing up as a tribal member you need respect not only for yourself but for others—and it even goes far beyond that: respect for your culture, your way of life, respecting everything around you. And you need the compassion to understand communities and people who have lost everything to a disaster. We need that level of compassion to help advocate for them and help get them the resources they need and help alleviate some of the devastation that they’ve encountered; it’s giving them hope when maybe they don’t have any left.


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