RALEIGH− The state Department of Public Safety announced Wednesday the leadership chosen for the new state Office of Recovery and Resiliency.
The three individuals named were selected “to lead the state’s initiative to help storm-affected communities rebuild smarter and stronger in the face of future natural disasters and long-term climate change,” according to the announcement
Jessica Whitehead has been named as chief resilience officer and Marlena Byrne and Amanda Martin have been named as a deputy chief resilience officers.
The Office of Recovery and Resiliency, under the Department of Public Safety, was established by Gov. Roy Cooper following Hurricane Florence. The office administers funds received by the state through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery Program, in partnership with the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The team has been tasked with improving collaboration between governments, nonprofits, the private sector and academia to develop resiliency solutions while creating safe and affordable housing solutions.
The office provides disaster recovery coordination with services that include recovery funding oversight, program applications processing, construction and vendor management, and public outreach and education, among other responsibilities, according to the release.
“The science tells us we can expect to see a continued increase in the frequency and severity of hurricanes and the flooding that follows. North Carolina has got to plan now to make our communities more resilient to future storms,” said state. Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks in a statement. “We can’t afford to wait for another Matthew or Florence to take action.”
Whitehead served for 11 years as the coastal communities hazards adaptation specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant. She is a member of the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate and co-chairs the Science and Technical Advisory Committee of the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership and recently began a term on the American Meteorological Society’s Board of Outreach and Pre-College Education.
Byrne, whose primary area of focus will be infrastructure projects, is an environmental and land use lawyer with extensive experience as an adviser for large scale public infrastructure, planning and capital improvement projects, as well as private development projects. She was a deputy city attorney for the City and County of San Francisco for 13 years, advising on urban planning, land use and historic preservation, as well as environmental, government, administrative and constitutional law.
Martin, whose primary area of focus will be housing projects, is a city planner specializing in resilient community and economic development. For the past three years, she ran the Southeast Disaster Recovery Partnership, where she oversaw capacity building and planning projects in four states, conducted applied research and built a network of recovery and resilience professionals across the Southeast and Caribbean.
“Hurricanes Matthew and Florence underscored that as North Carolina builds back, we need to find ways to build back smarter and stronger,” said Whitehead. “We must improve North Carolina’s resilience, and doing so now will be cheaper in the long run as weather events become more severe and our climate changes.”
To date, recovery spending for Hurricane Matthew has been more than $1.14 billion and for Hurricane Florence, $1.58 billion.