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Former FEMA Director and Rebuild North Bay interim Executive Director James Lee Witt and state Sens. Mike McGuire and Bill Dodd will headline a Business Journal conference focused on fire recovery efforts in the North Bay from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 16.

The Impact Project: Rebuild conference represents a new fire-recovery focus of the Journal’s Impact Sonoma event that had been in the planning for several months. The event will also include an update on the launch of SMART commuter rail service from SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian. Also presenting will be the chairs of the boards of supervisors in Sonoma and Napa counties, Shirlee Zane and Belia Ramos, respectively.

A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorships will go to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

“This is an opportunity for business leaders to hear the latest information on these early stages of the fire recovery and to pull together as a community,” said Journal Publisher Brad Bollinger. “No one is under any illusions about how long this is going to take. But hearing about what’s happening now and in the planning stages will give us hope that we are moving forward.”

Witt, a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton administration, is interim executive director of Rebuild North Bay, a public-private partnership launched to coordinate wildfire-recovery efforts in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties.

Witt ran FEMA from April 1993 to January 2001. During that time, his agency responded to nearly 350 officially declared disasters in 50 states, including California’s Northridge earthquake, Red River Flood in the Dakotas and of hurricanes in the South.

After leaving government, he founded James Lee Witt Associates, which advised governments, nonprofits and businesses recovering from natural disasters. Hours after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, Witt began helping New Orleans recover from the biggest disaster in its history. His firm also helped with recovery from wildfires in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Newport Beach.

Darius Anderson, a principal in Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat, North Bay Business Journal among other media outlets, spearheaded the formation of Rebuild North Bay,

Tickets are $70 each or $715 for a table of 10 (including company table sign.) A continental breakfast will be served. Register online at or call 707-521-5264. A portion of ticket sales will go to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund.

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