Speakers - Northeast Risk & Resilience

Click on a speaker name to read biography.


Chester (Chet) Arnold

(October 8, 2014) Chet Arnold is an Extension Educator and the Director for Outreach of the University of Connecticut Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR), a partnership of the Department of Extension, the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, and the Connecticut Sea Grant Program.

Mr. Arnold has been with the University since 1987, and has worked on the Long Island Sound Study Public Outreach Program, the NEMO Program, the National NEMO Network, and CLEAR — all of which he helped to create. He has authored several national award-winning papers and has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on over $14M of external grants. As the Center's Director of Outreach, Mr. Arnold focuses on the integration and dissemination of CLEAR land use research, geospatial tools and training, and outreach programs to best serve CLEAR's municipal and other audiences.

Chester Arnold, Director for Outreach
Center for Land Use Education and Research, University of Connecticut
Debra T. Ballen

(October 8, 2014) Debra Ballen joined IBHS in 2008 as the General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Public Policy. In this capacity, she is responsible for managing all of the organization's legal matters and overseeing IBHS' public policy efforts. In addition, she also serves as the organization's Corporate Secretary.

Prior to her work with IBHS, Ms. Ballen was the Executive Vice President of Public Policy Management for the American Insurance Association in Washington, D.C. She developed and implemented policy for AIA's priority federal and state public policy issues. She also has served on the OECD High Level Advisory Board on Financial Management of Large Scale Catastrophes, which includes a heavy emphasis on mitigation measures.

Ms. Ballen graduated with a juris doctorate degree from Harvard Law School and an A.B. degree from Princeton University. She also has received the CPCU designation.

Debra Ballen, General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Public Policy
Institute for Business and Home Safety
Juliana Barrett, Ph.D.

(October 8, 2014) Juliana Barrett is an Associate Extension Educator and Coastal Habitat Specialist with the University of Connecticut Sea Grant College Program and the Department of Extension. Her responsibilities focus on developing outreach and tools pertaining to climate change adaptation and coastal habitat management in coordination with Connecticut's municipalities, NGO's and state and federal partners.

Dr. Barrett received a bachelor's degree in Biology from Smith College in 1982. She also holds a master's degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences from The Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Prior to coming to Sea Grant in 2006 she worked as a private consultant and for The Nature Conservancy as the Director of the Connecticut River Tidelands Last Great Places Program. Dr. Barrett is a co-author of the Vegetation of Connecticut and numerous other publications.

Juliana Barrett, Ph.D., Associate Extension Educator, Connecticut Sea Grant Program
University of Connecticut
Rachel Cleetus

(October 8, 2014) Dr. Rachel Cleetus is a senior climate economist with the Climate and Energy Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Her expertise is in the design and economic evaluation of climate and energy policies at the state, federal and international levels, as well as the analysis of the costs of climate change.

Dr. Cleetus is part of a multidisciplinary research team working on UCS' climate impacts initiative, currently focusing on two major climate impacts: the growing risks and costs of sea level rise, coastal storms and flooding, and how communities can help protect themselves from these risks; and the growing risks of hotter, drier conditions to Rocky Mountain Forests, including wildfires. She has authored a UCS report, Overwhelming Risk: Rethinking Flood Insurance in a World of Rising Seas and co-authored Playing with Fire: How Climate Change and Development Patterns are Contributing to the Soaring Costs of Western Wildfires. She is also a power sector expert, and is doing research and analysis related to the power plant carbon standards. She has co-authored a UCS study, Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America's Costliest Coal Plants.

Dr. Cleetus holds a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from Duke University.

Rachel Cleetus, Senior Climate Economist, Climate and Energy Program
Union of Concerned Scientists
Michael Cohen

(October 8, 2014) Michael Cohen is the Vice President of Government Affairs for RenaissanceRe, a global provider of reinsurance and insurance to cover the risk of natural and man-made catastrophes.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Cohen was a director of industry and state relations at Freddie Mac. He also served as the Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House Community Empowerment Board in the Clinton White House, was the White House liaison at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and ran the Office of Special Actions for HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. Mr. Cohen was a legislative assistant in U.S. House of Representatives and has held various other positions both in and out of government.

He grew up in Miami, Florida and earned a B.A. at Columbia University and a J.D. at Emory University School of Law.

Michael Cohen, Director
RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation
Curtis Fisher

(October 8, 2014) Curtis Fisher, Northeast Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), is an attorney and a former environmental advisor to three New Jersey Governors.

Curtis has led many major successful conservation efforts, including: passing the landmark Highlands Protection Act which protected over 400,000 acres of critical habitat in northern New Jersey. In 2008, Curtis designed and launched the region's first multi-state climate vulnerability and resiliency project, including working with scientists and state fish and wildlife agencies on the first vulnerability study from Virginia to Maine. More recently, Curtis and his NWF team have worked to create model local projects to demonstrate effective conservation and green infrastructure strategies to address rising sea levels and climate change. In 2014, NWF either led or partnered on three climate resiliency projects totaling more than $10 million, with $7 million in federal funding. Curtis also leads an effort to educate and connect kids to nature via the international program called Eco-Schools in New York and New Jersey which has more Eco-Schools than any other metro region in the country with over 350 registered schools.

Curtis Fisher, Northeast Regional Executive Director
National Wildlife Federation
Dr. Ian Giammanco

(October 8, 2014) Dr. Ian Giammanco is a Lead Research Meteorologist at Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety's (IBHS) Research Center in South Carolina. His responsibilities include providing leadership in instrumentation design and data collection, multi-hazard testing, field measurement programs, and provides guidance on weather and climate issues within the IBHS public policy program.

He is currently serving a three-year term on the American Meteorological Society's Committee on Weather and Climate Financial Risk Management. Dr. Giammanco has over a decade of meteorological field research experience, serving as the field coordinator for the IBHS Characteristics of Hail Field Program and participating in numerous hurricane and severe thunderstorm field research projects, including the National Science Foundation and NOAA funded VORTEX 2.

Dr. Giammanco received a bachelor's degree in Atmospheric Science from the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 2002. He also holds a master's degree in Atmospheric Science, as well as a Ph.D. in Wind Science and Engineering both from Texas Tech University. During his doctoral studies he was appointed as a National Science Foundation — Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training Fellow, and served as an intern scientist at NOAA's Hurricane Research Division in Miami. Dr. Giammanco is currently appointed as an Adjunct Faculty Research Associate within the National Wind Institute at Texas Tech University.

Dr. Ian Giammanco, Lead Meteorologist
Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety
Jessica Grannis

(October 8, 2014) Jessica Grannis is the Adaptation Program Manager for the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) and a staff attorney and adjunct professor at the Harrison Institute, at Georgetown University Law Center. She supervises students and GCC staff who work directly with state and local government officials on projects to help them adapt to climate change.

Her recent publications include an Adaptation Tool Kit for Sea Level Rise (2012); and a book chapter on Coastal Retreat in the Law of Climate Change: U.S. and International Aspects (2012, with Peter Byrne). Prior to joining the Climate Center, she was staff counsel for the California State Coastal Conservancy and the Ocean Protection Council.

Jessica Grannis, Adaptation Program Manager
Georgetown Climate Center
Katherine Greig

(June 2, 2016) Katherine is Deputy Director at the NYC Mayor's Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

She previously worked as Senior Policy Advisor focused on climate change and insurance at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, and on the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force under Secretary for Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, where she also worked on insurance policy.

Prior to the Task Force, Ms. Greig worked at the Boston Consulting Group and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She has an MALD (Masters of Law and Diplomacy) from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, an MBA from Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business and a BA from Stanford.

Katherine Greig, Deputy Director
NYC Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency
Ethan Handelman

(October 8, 2014) Ethan Handelman is the Vice President for Policy and Advocacy, National Housing Conference (NHC). He directs NHC's policy and advocacy agenda focused on advancing federal housing policy to assist low- and moderate-income people, strengthening the nation's housing finance system, restoring neighborhoods, advocating for housing policy during tax and budgetary reforms, and improving the coordination of housing, transportation and energy policy. He has testified before Congress and speaks and writes regularly on housing issues.

Mr. Handelman joined NHC in March, 2011, after leading the advisory practice at Recap Real Estate Advisors, assisting public- and private-sector clients to understand and shape the affordable housing financial and policy environment. Ethan received his MA in International Relations from Harvard University and holds a BA in Political Science from University of Michigan. He serves on the board of Housing Unlimited, a non-profit housing provider in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Ethan Handelman, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy
National Housing Conference
Alice C. Hill

Senior Advisor for Preparedness and Resilience to the Assistance to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, National Security Council Staff, White House

(October 8, 2014) Retired Judge Alice C. Hill joined the White House National Security Council staff in September 2013 as the Senior Advisor for Preparedness and Resilience to the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco. In this capacity, she serves as the principal advisor on issues involving preparedness and resilience to climate change. Her duties include providing advice and counsel on implementation of the President's Climate Action Plan, developing policy regarding building resilient infrastructure, removing barriers to ensuring resiliency, promoting creation of innovative delivery of climate change related information, fostering regional coordination of federal climate preparedness and resilience services, and leading interagency policy groups.

Prior to joining the White House, Judge Hill served as the Senior Counselor to the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. She also previously served as a Supervisory Judge on both the Los Angeles Superior Court and the Los Angeles Municipal Court. Judge Hill received her law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law and her BA from Stanford University.

Alice C. Hill, Senior Advisor for Preparedness and Resilience to the Assistance to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, National Security Council Staff
White House
Bradley Kading

(October 8, 2014) As President and Executive Director of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR), Mr. Kading directs ABIR's public policy activities around the world.

Mr. Kading gives talks regularly to numerous policymaker and industry groups and has had articles published in the Journal of Insurance Regulation and in the Geneva Association Papers on Risk and Insurance.

Prior to joining ABIR, Mr. Kading served for 14 years as Senior Vice President and Director of State Relations for the Reinsurance Association of America.

Bradley Kading, President & Executive Director
Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers
Daniel Kreeger

(October 8, 2014) Daniel Kreeger is co-founder and executive director of the Association of Climate Change Officers. He has vast experience establishing partnerships and collaborating with Federal agencies, municipal governments, environmental non-profits, academic institutions and multinational corporations, and has a unique familiarity of key climate and sustainability leaders and initiatives in the United States.

Since 2008, Mr. Kreeger has been a leader in producing industry leading professional development conferences such as the GreenGov Symposium (in partnership with the White House Council on Environmental Quality) and the Climate Leadership Conference and Awards (in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). In 2013, he launched ACCO's efforts to develop the world's first comprehensive climate change certification program.

He is a native Floridian and is graduate of Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Kreeger has published numerous papers and spoken at dozens of industry events on operational and workforce issues related to climate change, environmental sustainability and national security. He serves on the Dean's Council of Advisors at the FIU College of Architecture and the Arts, is an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University School of Law, and frequently lectures at top sustainability focused graduate and executive education programs such as Harvard and Arizona State University.

Daniel Kreeger, Executive Director
Association of Climate Change Officers
David Marra

(October 8, 2014) David Marra is named Senior Vice President and Chief Underwriting Officer - Casualty & Specialty for RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd. Mr. Marra is based in Connecticut and also holds the position of President of RenaissanceRe Underwriting Managers U.S. LLC.

Mr. Marra has over 15 years of insurance and reinsurance experience, including more than 10 years in the Bermuda reinsurance market.

Mr. Marra holds a B.S. in Mathematical Sciences from the University of Kentucky and is also a Fellow of the Casualty Actuarial Society.

David Marra, SVP and Chief Underwriting Officer - Casualty & Specialty
RenaissanceRe Holdings Ltd.
Christopher S. Murphy

(October 8, 2014) Senator Christopher Murphy is the junior United States Senator for Connecticut. Elected in 2012, Mr. Murphy serves on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Joint Economic Committee.

Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, Mr. Murphy served Connecticut's Fifth Congressional District for three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. During his three terms, Mr. Murphy served on the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Committee on Financial Services.

Before his service in the U.S. Congress, Murphy served for eight years in the Connecticut General Assembly. Senator Murphy grew up in Wethersfield, Connecticut, and attended Williams College in Massachusetts, graduating with honors and a double major in history and political science. In 2002, he graduated from UConn Law School in Hartford, Connecticut. He practiced real estate and banking law from 2002-2006 with the firm of Ruben, Johnson & Morgan in Hartford.

Christopher Murphy, United States Senator
State of Connecticut
Collin O’Mara

(June 2, 2016) Collin O'Mara joined National Wildlife Federation, America’s oldest and largest wildlife conservation and education organization, as President and CEO on July 7, 2014.

Mr. O'Mara came to the NWF from the state government of Delaware where he led the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control since 2009. In that position, Secretary O’Mara served as the state’s top environmental official, led the state’s efforts to conserve and restore wildlife and fishery habitat, improve air quality and public health, ensure access to clean water, expand outdoor recreation and environmental education opportunities, and enhance the state’s resilience to extreme weather and other climate impacts.

A native of Syracuse, New York, O'Mara was a Marshall Scholar at the University of Oxford, a University Fellow at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, and a Presidential Scholar at Dartmouth College. He is a Catto Fellow at the Aspen Institute, a U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional, and completed Stanford Business School’s Executive Management Program in Environmental Sustainability.

Collin O’Mara, President and CEO
National Wildlife Federation
Bill Read

(October 8, 2014) Mr. Read currently serves as an on-air contributor for KPRC in Houston, Texas, as the hurricane expert and analyst during times of significant weather activity.

Mr. Read retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)/National Weather Service (NWS) in June 2008 after serving 40 years, including the honor of Director, National Hurricane Center in Miami from 2008 through June 2012. Previously, Mr. Read was the meteorologist in charge at the Houston-Galveston Area NWS forecast officer from 1992 to 2007. He was the operational and administrative leader of many significant weather operations as well as major technological and organizational changes. In this capacity, he led the office through the installation of the NEXRAD Doppler radar, WSR-88D, and had added responsibilities associated with the restructuring of the field operations of the NWS. Mr. Read has also been a member of the Hurricane Liaison Team, augmenting the staff at the National Hurricane Center to brief high level governmental agencies for land falling hurricanes; specifically, Isabel (2003), Charley (2004), and Katrina (2005).

Bill Read, Former Director
National Hurricane Center
Timothy Smail

(October 8, 2014) A results-driven professional, Mr. Smail has extensive educational, project management and research experience in disaster mitigation building practices. He currently leads the research and technical aspects of signature FLASH programs including the professional training program Blueprint for Safety.

Mr. Smail is also the key collaborator with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to embed mitigation information into the long-term rebuilding process. Prior to joining FLASH in 2011, he was an engineer and program manager for the Savannah River National Laboratory where he led two programs centered on residential home vulnerability and mitigation. Mr. Smail is a member of the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation —Science Master's Program (NSF-SMP) in Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructure in the Clemson University Civil Engineering Department and the Florida International University Wall of Wind (WoW) Technical Advisory Committee.

He has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Penn State University and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Timothy Smail, SVP, Engineering and Technical Programs
Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
Adam Sobel

(October 8, 2014) Adam Sobel is a professor at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. He is an atmospheric scientist who specializes in the dynamics of climate and weather, particularly in the tropics, on time scales of days to decades. A major focus of his current research is extreme events - such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and droughts, and the risks these pose to human society in the present and future climate.

Adam Sobel holds a Bachelor's degree in Physics and Music from Wesleyan University, and a Ph.D. in Meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the last few years, he has received the Meisinger Award from the American Meteorological Society, the Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, an AXA Award in Extreme Weather and Climate from the AXA Research Fund, and an Ascent Award from the Atmospheric Sciences Section of the American Geophysical Union. Mr. Sobel is author or co-author of over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles, and his popular book about Hurricane Sandy, Storm Surge, will be published by Harper-Collins in October 2014.

Adam Sobel, Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Applied Physics & Applied Mathematics
Columbia University
Brian Swett

(October 8, 2014) Brian Swett is Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space for the City of Boston. Over the last year, Mr. Swett has led a variety of major policy and program initiatives in Boston including developing and passing a building energy disclosure ordinance, launching Greenovate Boston, a sustainability education and outreach initiative, and kicking off Climate Ready Boston, a set of climate preparedness initiatives.

Mr. Swett is also leading efforts to update the City of Boston's Climate Action Plan, which is due in 2014. Prior to his appointment with the City, Mr. Swett oversaw sustainability related initiatives at Boston Properties, worked for an environmental justice non-profit, two socially responsible investment firms, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, and several offices in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Brian Swett, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space
City of Boston
Craig Tillman

(October 8, 2014) Mr. Tillman serves as President of WeatherPredict Consulting Inc., a U.S.-based RenaissanceRe affiliate that provides intelligence on natural perils to a range of entities. In his current role at WeatherPredict, he directs a team of advanced scientists with specialties in oceanography, meteorology, wind engineering, structural engineering, seismic risk and computer simulation. Mr. Tillman also serves as President and Director of RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation Inc., a non-profit foundation that supports advanced scientific research in natural catastrophes, the development of risk mitigation techniques to safeguard communities, efforts that reduce the economic turmoil following disasters, and organizations that preserve coastal habitats.

Mr. Tillman currently serves as an Executive Director for the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. Mr. Tillman is also a Director for the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes. He holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Mathematics, as well as the Associate in Reinsurance (ARe) and Risk Management (ARM) designations. He is a longstanding member of the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute.

Craig Tillman, President
WeatherPredict Consulting Inc.
Shana Udvardy

(October 8, 2014) Shana Udvardy has twenty years of experience working in the environmental arena. She brings a decade of experience successfully implementing freshwater, flood risk management and climate adaptation policy strategies and a decade of field research experience assessing and monitoring freshwater and terrestrial systems throughout the United States and South America. Ms. Udvardy is frequently called upon to speak and to present articles on climate adaptation and flood risk management including a recent State Department speaking tour where she engaged with policymakers and civil society organizations in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.

Under the Center for Clean Air Policy's (CCAP) Weathering Climate Risks program, Ms. Udvardy is working to advance corporate and community preparedness for extreme weather and climate change impacts, and assess the economic benefits of risk management and planning ahead. Previously, as president of Udvardy Consulting, she worked on flood risk and climate adaptation initiatives including co-leading the Natural Floodplain Functions Alliance and the American Planning Association's â??Planning for Flood Resilient Communitiesâ?? workshop series.

Ms. Udvardy holds a M.S. in Conservation Ecology and Sustainable Development from the University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology, and a B.A. from Syracuse University's Maxwell School.

Shana Udvardy, Climate Adaptation Policy Analyst
Center for Clean Air Policy
Lincoln (Link) Walther, FAICP

(October 8, 2014) Mr. Walther serves as the Vice President of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Association (NHMA) and has been on the Board of Directors since 2012. This past year, he was Co-chair of the 2014 Natural Hazard Mitigation International Practitioners Symposium.

Mr. Walther has over 45 years of experience in urban planning, with the last 14 years focused primarily assisting local governments on hazard mitigation and emergency management issues. Mr. Walther first became involved in hazard mitigation in the late 1990s when he participated in the development of Florida' s Local Mitigation Strategy (LMS) program which was the forerunner of the FEMA' s Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. Mr. Walther also assisted the American Planning Association (APA) in updating and overhauling the 1998 PAS Report, Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery and Reconstruction under the new title, Planning for Post-Disaster Recovery: Next Generation.

Professionally, Mr. Walther has served as Chairman of the Treasure Coast Section of the American Planning Association. He also was a state officer for the Florida Chapter American Planning Association. In 2008 he had the distinguished honor of being inducted in the Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners (FAICP). Mr. Walther also has served as a representative of the Florida Chapter, American Planning Association (APA) on the State of Florida Hazard Mitigation Plan Advisory Team since its inception in 2004.

Lincoln Walther, Vice President
National Hazard Mitigation Association

"We are grateful to our eminent speakers who volunteered their time to help Forum participants learn more about disaster safety and help advance the disaster safety movement's mission of making coastal communities safer."

Stephen Weinstein, Chairman of the RenaissanceRe Risk Sciences Foundation

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