RALEIGH− The N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency has named three experts to lead the state’s initiative to help storm-impacted communities rebuild smarter and stronger in the face of future natural disasters and long-term climate change. The team will improve collaboration between governments, non-profits, the private sector and academia, with a goal of developing solutions that enhance the resilience of communities and the natural environment while creating safe and affordable housing solutions.
“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 N.C. Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik Hooks. “We can’t afford to wait for another Matthew or Florence to take action.”
The Office of Recovery and Resiliency, a Department of Public Safety division, 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. Established by Governor Roy Cooper in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the office provides disaster recovery coordination with services that include oversight of recovery funding, processing of program applications, construction and vendor management, and public outreach and education, among other responsibilities.
Dr. Jessica Whitehead has been named as Chief Resilience Officer. Dr. Whitehead has for 11 years served as the coastal communities hazards adaptation specialist for North Carolina Sea Grant. In her work, she helped coastal communities improve their resilience by helping them incorporate weather and climate information into their local planning and decision-making. Recognized within North Carolina and nationally as an expert in using science for adapting to coastal change, Dr. Whitehead is a member of the Independent Advisory Committee on Applied Climate. She 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. She earned her Doctor of Philosophy in geography and Master of Science degree in meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University, and her Bachelor of Science degree in physics with a concentration in meteorology from the College of Charleston.
Marlena Byrne has been named as a Deputy Chief Resilience Officer. Her primary area of focus will be infrastructure projects. Ms. Byrne is an environmental and land use lawyer with extensive experience as an advisor for large scale public infrastructure, planning and capital improvement projects, as well as private development projects. As a deputy city attorney for the City and County of San Francisco for 13 years, she advised officials on urban planning, land use and historic preservation, as well as environmental, government, administrative and constitutional law. Ms. Byrne received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Stanford University and her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.
Amanda Martin has been named as a Deputy Chief Resilience Officer. Her primary area of focus will be housing projects. Ms. Martin is a city planner who specializes 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. Ms. Martin is finishing her Doctor of Philosophy in City and Regional Planning from UNC-Chapel Hill. She holds a Master in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an undergraduate degree from Harvard University.
“Hurricanes Matthew and Florence underscored that as North Carolina builds back, we need to find ways to build back smarter and stronger,” said Dr. Jessica 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.”