Cal OES Director Honored for his Outstanding Career by National Emergency Management Association


In recognition of his leadership and outstanding career in emergency management in California over the last three decades, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) Director Mark Ghilarducci was honored today by the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA).

Ghilarducci was presented a Distinguished Service Award during NEMA’s 2022 Annual Forum in Stowe, Vermont for his role in helping communities prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies in California.

Ghilarducci has served as Cal OES Director since 2012 and has expertly guided the state through some of the most complex and challenging disaster conditions in the nation – coordinating California’s emergency response to unprecedented wildfires, severe drought, earthquakes and cybersecurity threats, as well as our nation-leading efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom announced Ghilarducci’s retirement before the end of the year.

“Mark’s tireless work to improve and modernize our emergency management, preparedness and recovery efforts has protected communities across California and better positioned the state to respond to a myriad of challenges now and into the future,” said Governor Newsom on Ghilarducci’s retirement. “On behalf of all Californians, I thank Mark for his tremendous leadership, perseverance and committed service. Our state is stronger and more resilient because of his efforts.”

NEMA is the association of professionals dedicated to enhancing public safety by improving the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from all emergencies, disasters, and threats to our security. NEMA is an affiliate organization of The Council of State Governments.

See NEMA’s release below:

NEMA Honor Mark Ghilarducci with Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award

The 2022 Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award was presented to Mr. Mark Ghilarducci on October 19 at the NEMA 2022 Annual Forum in beautiful Stowe, Vermont. The award was presented by Ms. Nancy Dragani, NEMA Past President and 2021 Suiter Award honoree.

Mark has devoted more than 25 years to making an impact within the field of emergency management. As Director of California’s Office of Emergency Services, Mark Ghilarducci led California through 130 federally declared disasters including five of the largest wildfires in California’s history. He led the charge to authorize over $300 million in California Disaster Assistance Act funding to work towards building a more resilient and safer California and was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom to be Chairman of the Board of Directors of the California Earthquake Authority and Chairman of the California Catastrophic Response Council.

Ghilarducci’s list of achievements before leading CalOEM is long and distinguished and includes serving as the Coordinator of the California response to 9/11, Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) for FEMA’s Region IX during the Clinton administration and as Deputy State Fire Chief of Special Operations for California’s Office of Emergency Services. In that position he played a leading role in developing and creating Cal OES’s fire and rescue mutual aid system which stands currently as an international model.

Through his leadership as Deputy State Fire Chief of Special Operations for California’s Office of Emergency Services, Ghilarducci created Team Blaze to augment and support the state of California’s fire service, enhance the capabilities and further the mission of the California State Guard. This project is the nation’s first all-hazards engine strike team that works to coordinate local, state, and federal resources to be better prepared to successfully respond to wildfires.

“Mark Ghilarducci has not only been instrumental in California’s emergency management program, but his leadership over the past several decades has improved the way we respond to and recover from disasters and continues to influence the field of emergency management internationally. His career embodies all the characteristics and values that the Suiter Award recognizes.” Erica Bornemann, NEMA President.

Ghilarducci’s great impact on the profession of emergency management will live on for years to come. The extensive list of his influential roles also include serving as an advisor to the State of Louisiana and Governor Kathleen Blanco for Hurricane Katrina in 2005, served as an Expert Panelist for RAND Corporation at the Center for Domestic and International Health Security for California’s Public Health Infrastructure Project, and was chosen as one of just 10 individuals to train mayors and various other senior city and state officials throughout the United States in the areas of terrorism preparedness for the U.S. Departments of Defense and Justice under the Nunn-Lugar Domenici anti-terrorism programs. Mark Ghilarducci is an ideal recipient for this esteemed award.

The Lacy E. Suiter Distinguished Service Award is presented each year by NEMA to an emergency management professional who has had an outstanding career with a strong impact on facets of emergency management that can include preparedness, mitigation, response, or recovery. This award is such an honor that it is given to an individual who has set and achieved goals of unusual merit during their time in emergency management.