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Deborah Hersman
Deborah Hersman NTSB Chairman.jpeg
12th Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board
In office
July 28, 2009 – April 25, 2014
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Mark Rosenker
Succeeded by Christopher A. Hart
Personal details
Born (1970-05-07) May 7, 1970 (age 48)
Edwards Air Force Base,
California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
George Mason University
Hersman briefing the press as chair of the NTSB in 2012

Deborah A.P. Hersman (born May 7, 1970) is a former board member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board who served as its 12th chairman. She completed two terms as chairman and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on October 16, 2013, for a third term. On March 11, 2014, she announced she would join the National Safety Council as its president and CEO.[1]

Personal life[edit]

She is the eldest daughter of retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Walter C Hersman, who served as a fighter pilot and test pilot. She has two sisters. She was born in California and lived with her family in places such as Amman, Jordan, Madrid, Spain, as well as Woodbridge, England and numerous states. She attended 4 different high schools. By the time she turned 17, the Hersmans had settled in Northern Virginia[2] where she attended Chantilly High School. She was a student pilot and soloed but did not complete her training.[3] She earned a commercial driver license (with passenger, school bus, and air brake endorsements) and has a motorcycle endorsement.[4]

In 1992, she earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and International Studies from Virginia Tech. In 2000, she earned an M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.[5] Hersman is married to her high school sweetheart and former Virginia Tech classmate, Niel Plummer.[6] They have three sons.[4]


She began her government career on the staff of West Virginia Congressman Bob Wise as an unpaid intern during the summer of her sophomore year at Virginia Tech.[6] She rose from intern to office manager and then to senior legislative aide. While working for Wise, Hersman dealt with a series of coal train derailments near Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Wise said, "She has a backbone. Don't ever think that you are ever going to push her over."[4]

In 1999, she left Wise's office to join the staff of the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.[5] Her efforts contributed to the passage of milestone bills such as the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002, Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century and Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act.[7]

In 2004, Hersman was appointed as a board member of the NTSB by President George W. Bush. In 2009, President Barack Obama reappointed her to a second five-year term and appointed her to a two-year term as chairman, making her, at age 39, one of the youngest to ever to fill that position.[8] President Obama reappointed Hersman as chairman in 2011, and in August 2013, he nominated her for a third term as chairman and for a third term as a board member. Pending Senate confirmation, the President designated Hersman to serve as vice chairman, making her acting chairman of the NTSB.[9] Her nomination was confirmed by voice vote on October 16, 2013.[10]

As a board member, Hersman traveled with NTSB teams investigating major accidents ranging from the collision of two Washington Metro trains to the mid-air collision of a sightseeing helicopter and single-engine airplane over the Hudson River in New York City.[11] She investigated over 25 major transportation incidents during her tenure at the NTSB. Among her many initiatives as chairman, Ms. Hersman focused on distracted driving, child passenger safety and helping victims and their families.

Since 2014, Hersman has led the nonprofit National Safety Council, based in Itasca, Illinois as its president and CEO.[12] She was awarded the 2015 Sentinel of Safety Award by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association for her dedication to transportation and aviation safety.[13] She was recognized by NHTSA Public Service Award in 2016.[14] In 2017, Hersman was appointed by former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to serve on the Department of Transportation Advisory Committee on Automation in Transportation. The advisory panel was established to provide counsel regarding technology implementation that can save lives and help eliminate preventable fatalities in all modes of transportation.[15] Hersman is currently chairing the Road to Zero Coalition led by the National Safety Council, The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Highway Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The Coalition aims to end roadway fatalities within 30 years by a strategy that combines education, engineering, enforcement and emergency medical services.[16]


  1. ^ "Deborah Hersman quits NTSB for National Safety Council". Los Angeles Times. 2014-03-11.
  2. ^ "Transportation's Real Mover". The Washington Post. 2009-07-17.
  3. ^ "Interview with NTSB Chairman" (video). AOPA Live. AOPA. 2013-03-21. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  4. ^ a b c "Profile of the National Transportation Safety Board's Deborah Hersman". Washington Post. 2009-07-16. p. 2. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  5. ^ a b "Official: Hersman, Deborah". AllGov. 2009-07-28. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  6. ^ a b "Alumni Shorts". Virginia Tech Magazine. Winter 2007. Archived from the original on 2013-07-12. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  7. ^ "NSC Experts: Deborah Hersman". Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  8. ^ "George Mason University". Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  9. ^ "Official NTSB website". Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  10. ^[dead link]
  11. ^ Hope Katz Gibbs (2009-11-16). "Getting The Story Right". The National Press Club. Retrieved 2013-07-13.
  12. ^ "National Safety Council names Deborah Hersman as new president". Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  13. ^ "2015 Sentinel of Safety Award: Chairman Deborah Hersman". Retrieved 2016-12-29.
  14. ^ nhtsa-admin (2016-10-09). "NHTSA honors the contributions of dedicated safety champions at annual Lifesavers Conference". NHTSA. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  15. ^ "USDOT Announces New Federal Committee on Automation". Department of Transportation. 2017-01-11. Retrieved 2017-02-28.
  16. ^ "USDOT, Safety Council Unveil 'Road to Zero Coalition' to End Roadway Deaths". Retrieved 2017-02-28.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Mark Rosenker
Succeeded by
Christopher A. Hart
Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board


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