James Witt

Director - Federal Emergency Management Agency

Mr. James Lee Witt is recognized as one of the most respected State directors of emergency management in the United States. He has served the people of Arkansas for over 16 years, as the chief elected official of Yell County and as the Director of Arkansas Office of Emergency Management Services.

Witt was born in Paris, Arkansas on January 6, 1944 and grew up in Dardanelle, Arkansas. In 1968, he started Witt Construction, a commercial and residential building company.

After 12 years as a successful businessman and community leader, he was elected County Judge for Yell County. At age 34, he was the youngest elected official in Arkansas. As County Judge, Witt served as the chief elected official for the county with judicial responsibilities for county court and juvenile court.

Among his accomplishments while county judge, Witt is credited with enhancing the health care facilities of the county, creating business enterprise zones for private investment, and establishing a county-wide volunteer fire department system. In 1987, he was recognized by the National Association of Counties for his outstanding efforts on behalf of Yell County.

After being reelected six times, in 1988, Mr. Witt was tapped by then-Governor Clinton to assume leadership of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services. In the capacity, he revitalized the emergency management structure within Arkansas.

Recognizing that the transportation of hazardous materials through the State was a significant problem, Witt instituted a State wide program of certification for hazardous materials responders. He served as the Governor's representative for over 31 State disasters and for three Presidential disaster declarations. This experience led him to work with the Arkansas legislature to fund a mitigation program and to pass a State-wide seismic building code.

Witt has been recognized nationally for his work in emergency management, environmental health, earthquake mitigation and veterans affairs. He was charter board chairman of Child Development Incorporated, organization dedicated to advancing head start programs for children.

The nomination of Witt by President Clinton signals the Administration's intent to strengthen emergency management at the Federal, State and local level. Witt brings to the position substantial experience management, a record of fiscal responsibility and a commitment to assisting people in times of crisis.

Witt is married to Lea Ellen Hodges Witt and has two sons.

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