John Benson began working for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 1992. At that time he worked with the Public Assistance Program in the Response and Recovery Bureau. In 1994 he moved on to become the off-site response planner for the Quad Cities nuclear power station. This work not only involved planning but also included conducting training for first responders who supported the plant.
In 1998, Mr. Benson became the 911 program manager for the state. The installation of wireless 911 services across the state was the primary project during his time as the program manager.
In 2007, he became the legislative liaison for what was then the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. This position involved working with state and federal elected representatives, and drafting associated bills, administrative rules and performance reporting.
Mr. Benson was named the department’s chief of staff in April 2019, and in that capacity was involved in special projects to include interoperable communications, and also oversaw the work of the department’s public information officers and legislative liaisons.
Mr. Benson started leading the team as the department’s director in October 2021.
He is a 1989 graduate of Iowa State University.
Chief of Staff
Recovery Division Administrator
Dennis Harper joined the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 1993. He was promoted to supervisor of the Public Assistance Program in February 2011. Prior to becoming program supervisor, he served as the department’s grant program manager for the Homeland Security Grant Program and Emergency Management Performance Grant and was the state’s hazard mitigation officer from 1993-2006. In July 2013, he became the chief for the new Hazard Mitigation Bureau (under the umbrella of the new Recovery Division). In July 2016, Mr. Harper transitioned to the chief of the Disaster Operations Bureau, and on June 1, 2018, he began his duties as the administrator of the Recovery Division.
During emergency operations, Mr. Harper has served as a logistics officer in the State Emergency Operation Center. He has often been deployed as a liaison to assist local governments in the initial stages of emergency response and is one of the primary state officials to coordinate disaster and damage assessment teams with local, state and federal officials.
Mr. Harper is a past co-chair to the National Hazard Mitigation Officers Association, where he provided counsel to the National Emergency Management Association on issues related to risk- and damage-reduction policies and legislation. In 1999, he also co-chaired a watershed task force created to address state policy and long-term planning for Iowa’s watersheds, and remains active in that role today.
A military veteran of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Mr. Harper retired from the Army National Guard in 2005.
RESPONSE DIVISION ADMINISTRATOR
Zachary Ellison joined the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2010, serving as a disaster project specialist within the Recovery Division. While working in the Recovery Division, he worked with both the Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation grant programs. In June 2015 he was promoted to strategic planner within the Response Division. As the strategic planner, he was in charge of the State Strategy, the Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Report as well as the Stakeholder Preparedness Review. Mr. Ellison has also served as an operations officer within the State Emergency Operations Center, as well as the 24/7 on-call duty officer.
In June 2019 he became the Preparedness Bureau chief, overseeing many different preparedness activities the department manages such as: disaster response planning, critical infrastructure planning, radiological emergency preparedness planning, strategic planning and volunteer/donations management.
Mr. Ellison was named Response Division administrator in January 2023 and is responsible for overseeing the department’s Preparedness, Communications and Technology, and Non-Disaster Grants and Finance bureaus.
He is a 2009 graduate of Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in community and regional planning.
Communications & Technology Bureau Chief
Jonathan Paoli has worked for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management since 2001. During his time with the department, he has worked to support all disasters in the State Emergency Operations Center. He has also served as the 24/7 on-call duty officer.
Mr. Paoli currently serves as the Communications and Infrastructure Bureau chief, as well as continuing to work as a GIS/IT professional. In this position, he oversees information technology, the 9-1-1 program, Alert Iowa, communications and public information, WebEOC administration, and the training program.
He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.
Non-Disaster Grants & Administration Bureau Chief
Julie Nishijima is the Non-disaster Grants and Administration Bureau chief of the Response Division of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. She oversees the non-disaster grants, including Emergency Management Performance Grant, Homeland Security Grant Program, Nonprofit Security Grant Program, and Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant. These grants support the state, local, and nonprofit agencies to prepare to respond to any disasters or emergencies.
Prior to joining the management team, Ms. Nishijima was the finance officer for the Emergency Management Performance Grant and Radiological Emergency Program, Alert Iowa, and State General Fund appropriation. She provided financial oversight of these funds and was critical in assisting the chief financial officer in making appropriate spending decisions. She has over 20 years of experience in budgeting and accounting.
Hazard Mitigation Bureau Chief
Jonathan Pogones has worked for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management since 2009. He transitioned to the Hazard Mitigation Bureau chief position in January 2022 and represents the department as the state hazard mitigation officer. He has oversight of all Hazard Mitigation Assistance program grants, including the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program, and the Flood Mitigation Assistance program.
In the event of a presidentially declared disaster, Mr. Pogones performs the duties of deputy state coordinating officer and as the Individual Assistance Program lead.
Mr. Pogones participates on the National Emergency Management Association subcommittees for mitigation and Individual Assistance, providing policy and program recommendations to national partners on topics ranging from program implementation to grant management modernization.
Mr. Pogones is a graduate of Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Public Assistance Bureau Chief
David Parziale joined the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2019. Mr. Parziale started in the Recovery Division as part of the finance team and later joined the Public Assistance Program team. Currently, Mr. Parziale serves as the Public Assistance Bureau chief providing guidance and oversight to the coordination of the Public Assistance Program throughout Iowa. Mr. Parziale has a diverse background in program administration and grants management at both the state and federal levels.
Mr. Parziale is a graduate of The College of New Jersey with a bachelor’s degree in women’s and gender studies and a minor in sociology. Additionally, Mr. Parziale is an AmeriCorps alum. During his service, Mr. Parziale assisted with disaster response and recovery efforts as a result of Hurricane Katrina, the 2008 Iowa floods, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Hurricane Sandy.
Preparedness Bureau Chief
Jeremy Sroka joined the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2014, serving as the critical infrastructure protection coordinator within the Response Division. In July 2019, he was promoted to Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program manager and served as the department’s logistics section chief during the public health emergency for COVID-19.
In February 2023, he became the Preparedness Bureau chief overseeing various preparedness activities the department manages such as: disaster response planning, critical infrastructure planning, radiological emergency preparedness planning, strategic planning, volunteer/donations management, public-private sector partnership planning and resource management.
Prior to joining HSEMD, Mr. Sroka also worked for the Iowa National Guard in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Infrastructure Security Division. He served in the Iowa National Guard and retired honorably in 2015.
Mr. Sroka serves as a non-elected permanent member of the board of directors for the Safeguard Iowa Partnership. In 2022, he was appointed to the Quad Cities Area Maritime Security Committee Executive Steering Committee. Mr. Sroka has been an active member of the State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Government Coordinating Council since 2016 and serves on a national level critical infrastructure working group.
Mr. Sroka earned his Bachelor of Science degree in emergency and disaster management at Upper Iowa University.
Disaster Grants Bureau Chief
Mark Newhall joined the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2021 as a project specialist. He oversees the financial management of the disaster grants, including Public Assistance (PA), the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, and several other smaller grants and programs. These grants and programs assist political subdivisions and non-profit groups within the state to recover from disasters and build more resilient communities to better withstand future disaster events. He also heads the Office of Levee Safety as part of Iowa’s Levee Improvement Program established on July 1, 2023.
Prior to joining HSEMD, Mr. Newhall worked as a full-time member of the Iowa National Guard where he served as the Director of Logistics and the Deputy United States Property & Fiscal Officer. After leaving Federal employment, Mr. Newhall joined the State of Iowa in November 2015 working as an auditor with the Auditor of State Office and an accountant with the Iowa Department of Public Defense.
A military veteran of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (Afghanistan), Mr. Newhall retired from the Army National Guard in October 2016 with 30 years of service.
7900 Hickman Road,
Windsor Heights, IA 50324