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Executive Team

The Witt O'Brien's leadership team is an impressive line-up of subject matter experts from government, not-for-profits, and the private sector. Their collective knowledge and experience has helped organizations all over the world deal with the complexities of operating in a global environment.

James Lee Witt, Executive Chairman of the Board

Mr. Witt was appointed by President Clinton and confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in April 1993. In February 1996, President Clinton elevated Mr. Witt to cabinet status, a first for a FEMA Director. As FEMA Director, Mr. Witt coordinated federal disaster relief on behalf of President Clinton, including the response and recovery activities of 28 federal agencies and departments, the American Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies. He also oversaw the National Flood Insurance Program, the U.S. Fire Administration, and other proactive mitigation activities that reduce loss of life and property from all types of hazards. Mr. Witt directed 2,500 employees located in Washington, DC, and 10 regional offices. From 1993 to 2000, Mr. Witt oversaw more than 350 disasters. More importantly, he was responsible for response and recovery operations for some of the most devastating disasters of all time, including the most costly flood disaster in the nation's history, the most costly earthquake, and a dozen damaging hurricanes. James Lee Witt has over 25 years of disaster management experience, culminating in his appointment as the Director of FEMA, where he served from 1993-2001. In this capacity, he is credited with turning FEMA from an unsuccessful bureaucratic agency to an internationally lauded all-hazards disaster management agency. His leadership abilities have been praised by nationally recognized organizations, including the Council for Excellence in Government, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and the National Association of Broadcasters.

Ken Burris, Chief Executive Officer

Mr. Burris serves as Witt O'Brien's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and is the former CEO of Witt Associates and the former Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the FEMA. His responsibilities at FEMA included the day-to-day operations of the agency’s 8,000 full-time and contract employees; managing a $7 billion budget; and serving as a senior advisor to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security for emergency response, recovery, and preparedness. Prior to assuming the duties of COO, Mr. Burris served as the Regional Director of FEMA’s Region IV, where his responsibilities included disaster response, recovery, and preparedness oversight for the Southeastern United States.

Background and Expertise:

  • Former COO of FEMA
  • Served as COO of the U.S. Fire Administration and Acting U.S. Fire Administrator
  • Senior-level capacity in a multitude of national incidents including 9/11, Columbia Shuttle Recovery, 2004 Hurricanes, Hurricane Katrina, and Deepwater Horizon Oil and Gas Recovery

K. Tim Perkins, President and Chief Operating Officer 

Mr. Perkins, President and COO of Witt O’Brien’s, served as President and CEO for O'Brien's Response Management Inc. for the last 15 years, responsible for PIER Systems and LINK Associates International, both wholly owned subsidiaries of Witt O'Brien's. Mr. Perkins has more than 30 years of experience in the oil and gas field and has responded to numerous oil company emergencies, including multi-million dollar fires, oil spills, hazardous material releases, and natural disasters as a crisis manager and incident commander.

Background and Expertise:

  • ERST/O’Brien’s, Inc. CEO
  • O’Brien Oil Pollution Service, Inc. CEO
  • ERST, Inc. CEO
  • Unocal emergency response and crisis management
  • Mobil Oil fire protection and safety engineer
  • Masters Degree, Safety Management, University of Southern California
  • Bachelor of Science, Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology, Oklahoma State University
  • Certified Safety Professional

Pate Felts, Chief Financial Officer

Mr. Felts is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Witt O'Brien's. Previously, Mr. Felts served as Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Executive Office of the President. In this position, he worked closely with state and local governments, business and agricultural communities, labor, environmental, and other domestic groups concerning U.S. international trade policy. In addition, Mr. Felts work included specific issues relating to the development, implementation, administration, and enforcement of existing trade agreements.

Background and Expertise:

  • Founding partner of Witt Associates and CFO
  • Served as the Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Clinton Administration
  • Served in several financial positions including chief financial and administrative officer of a public company, regional financial officer of a large multi-national company, consultant to a private venture capital firm, and auditor and tax specialist in the field of public accounting

Mark Merritt, Senior Vice President of Recovery Services

Mr. Merritt is the Senior Vice President of Recovery Services for Witt O'Brien's. In his time as the President of Witt Associates, Mr. Merritt brought first-hand disaster recovery and operational expertise to emergency planning and on-site disaster response and recovery projects for state, local, and private sector entities. Mr. Merritt was project manager for Witt Associates efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina, Cayman Islands after Hurricane Ivan, Houston after Tropical Storm Allison, and in Guam after Typhoon Chata’an. He provided expert evaluation and estimation of damages, prepared and submitted financial and related project worksheets, managed recovery operations, monitored recovery and response budgets, developed scopes of work to repair or replace damaged facilities, and coordinated donations. In addition, Mr. Merritt has developed and delivered training programs for local emergency responders for numerous government officials in Guam, Myrtle Beach, Key West, Miami, and Tampa.

Background and Expertise:

  • Founding partner of Witt Associates
  • Coordinated all disaster response projects for Witt Associates since 2001
  • Has overseen operations managing more than $15 billion in relief funds
  • Graduate of West Point
  • Served in Operation Desert Storm

Barry W. Scanlon, Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Business Development, and Sales

Mr. Scanlon is Senior Vice President of Government Relations, Business Development, and Sales for Witt O'Brien's. Formerly, as President of Witt Associates, he counseled clients on public safety and emergency management issues. Prior to joining Witt Associates, Mr. Scanlon was appointed by President Clinton to the business liaison and corporate outreach official for FEMA’s Project Impact initiative. Mr. Scanlon secured more than 5,000 corporate partners for the Project Impact campaign; developed brand marketing relationships or joint ventures with FORTUNE 500 companies such as Home Depot, Fannie Mae, Visa, Solutia, State Farm, and BellSouth; and leveraged over $50 million through corporate partners to promote Project Impact's message through public education, press conferences, and business summits.

Background and Expertise:

  • Founding partner of Witt Associates
  • Appointed by President Clinton as Director of Corporate Affairs for FEMA
  • Created, developed, and implemented Project Impact (a $100 million joint public/private sector initiative)
  • Served as staff of House Banking Committee for Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II

Don Costanzo, Senior Vice President of Technology Solutions

Mr. Costanzo, Senior Vice President of Witt O'Brien's Technology Solutions, is an information management and emergency response professional with over 20 years of experience in oil spill response and information management. As former executive vice president for O’Brien’s Response Management Inc.'s business applications development, Mr. Costanzo was responsible for the design development and implementation of technology solutions that supported company incident response, consulting, and training services. He has extensive experience in delivering software solutions for computerized maintenance management, electronic planning, and automated Incident Command Systems (ICS) relating to emergency response planning and oil spill operations.

Background and Expertise:

  • Executive Vice President, O’Brien’s Response Management, Inc.
  • Published nationally and internationally in conference proceedings and journals
  • Software Systems Engineer
  • Bachelor of Science, Civil Engineering, University of Alaska, Anchorage

Charlie Fisher, Senior Vice President of Consulting Services

Mr. Fisher is the Senior Vice President of Consulting Services. Previously for Witt Associates, he oversaw Preparedness Operations, in which he was responsible for managing preparedness services and implementing projects such as hazard mitigation, energy assurance planning, and continuity of operations planning. He also led the company's federal practice, strategic advisory services, and utility and critical infrastructure practices.

Background and Expertise:

  • Led the investigation of the Indiana State Fair structural collapse in August 2011, helping conduct a comprehensive, independent analysis of the State Fair’s preparedness and response to the incident
  • Provided counsel to governors, CEOs, mayors, emergency managers, and university presidents on various aspects of emergency management
  • Led the independent assessment of the State of Connecticut October 2011 snowstorm power outage
  • Led the independent review of the electric utilities serving Washington, DC, and four states in the Mid-Atlantic region