The Neil Frank award honors those who make significant national or international impacts in hurricane preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.
Lay, 69, who died of a heart attack in January, was known not only in Brevard County but also statewide and nationally as an emergency management expert. He led Brevard County through countless emergency situations including hurricanes and wildfires.
Lay’s widow Patti, and their son, Branden, accepted the award. Officials with the Brevard Emergency Operations Center were also on hand, including interim Emergency Management Director Kimberly Prosser.
Neil Frank was director of the National Hurricane Center in Florida for 13 years and directed severe tropical weather information to meteorologists and media across the country. Frank trained as a weather officer while serving in the U.S. Air Force. He joined the staff of the National Hurricane Center as a forecaster in 1961 and was named director in 1974.
Prior to his employment with Brevard County, Lay was employed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and served as the manager of the Disaster Field Office in Albany, Ga., during the floods of 1994.
Lay, a native of Mississippi, served three tours in Vietnam as an Army helicopter pilot, retiring as a colonel in August 1994. During his last assignment, while serving as the Commander of the U.S. Army Readiness Group, Patrick, he also served as the Department of Defense Coordinating Officer, responsible for disaster response and recovery missions assigned to the Department of Defense in wildfires in Georgia, and in Hurricane Andrew in south Florida.
Lay was appointed to the Governor’s Wildfire Response and Mitigation Review Committee following wildfires in 1998, and he represented the Central Florida Region as Emergency Management Co-Chair for Central Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force since 1999. He served on the Regional Local Emergency Planning Committee and on the Joint Toxic Hazard Control Team representing the public surrounding Kennedy Space Center and Canaveral Air Force Station. He was instrumental in establishing unity of effort and regionalization of resources within the Central Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force area.
Lay was recognized by the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association as the Emergency Management Professional of the Year for 2003 and received a Distinguished Service Award from the National Hurricane Conference 2004 for outstanding leadership in response to hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Jeanne.
Mayfield, who became director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami in January 2000, led the coastal regions of the United States through the record-setting hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, which included catastrophic Hurricane Katrina. He retired as director of the National Hurricane Center in January 2007.