Press Release


Rebuild Announces former FEMA Chief James Lee Witt as its Executive Director

Santa Rosa – Rebuild North Bay has named James Lee Witt, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Clinton Administration, to serve as its interim executive director and lead recovery effort s in the wake of the North Bay wildfires that burned more than 400 square miles, destroyed at least 8,400 structures and resulted in 42 deaths.

U.S. Representative Mike Thompson, whose Congressional District was hardest hit by the fires, is scheduled to introduce Witt at a news conference in the Student Center at Sonoma State University (1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, Ca.) at 1 p.m. PST on Wednesday, October 25th, along with other public officials from the region.

Witt, who served eight years as FEMA director, is credited with improving the agency’s preparedness for natural disasters and universally recognized as one of the country’s great turnaround specialists.

As FEMA director, Witt responded to nearly 350 officially declared disasters in all 50 states, including the Northridge, Ca. earthquake, the Red River Flood in the Dakotas and scores of hurricanes in the South. Hours after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Witt began helping New Orleans recover from the biggest disaster in its history.

After leaving government the founded James Lee Witt Associates, which advised governments, non-profits and businesses recovering from natural disasters such as the Los Alamos, NM and Newport Beach, CA wildfires.

Formed in the wake of the recent wine country fires, Rebuild North Bay is focused on disaster preparedness and short and long-term catastrophe recovery. As part of that effort, the organization has tapped Witt to lead the initial recovery and rebuilding plan, along with several other experts.

Witt and Thompson will be joined at the news conference by Bill Todd, who represents California’s 3rd State Senate District, and David Rabbit, who represents Sonoma County’s 2nd District on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Media Contact: Ken Garcia, 415-513-3557.