Senior Staff

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John Benson

John Benson
Interim Director

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 interim director in June 2021.

He is a 1989 graduate of Iowa State University.

Dennis Harper

Dennis Harper
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.

Aimee Bartlett

Aimee Bartlett
Hazard Mitigation Bureau Chief

Aimee Bartlett joined the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2007 as the Public Assistance Program finance officer. In April 2014, Ms. Bartlett became chief of the Operations Bureau, one of three bureaus in the department’s Recovery Division. Ms. Bartlett transitioned to the Hazard Mitigation Bureau chief position in July 2016 and represents the department as the state hazard mitigation officer. She 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, Ms. Bartlett performs the duties of deputy state coordinating officer and as the Individual Assistance Program lead.

Ms. Bartlett 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.

Ms. Bartlett is a graduate of Truman State University.

Jacob Nicholson

Jacob Nicholson
Response Division Administrator

Jacob Nicholson began working for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in December 2008.  At that time he worked as the Radiological Emergency Preparedness site specialist for the Duane Arnold Energy Center.  In 2014, he became that program’s manager, responsible for ensuring all state and local planning, training, and exercise activities associated with the nuclear power plants affecting the state of Iowa are accomplished in accordance with state and federal regulations and guidance.

During his tenure with the department, Mr. Nicholson has served as an operations officer in the State Emergency Operations Center, as a 24/7 on-call duty officer, as the special security officer for the department, and has lead the department’s emergency response resource management efforts.

Mr. Nicholson was named Response Division administrator in April 2019 and is responsible for overseeing the department’s Preparedness, Communications and Technology, and Non-Disaster Grants and Finance bureaus.

Prior to joining the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, he served as a research analyst with the U.S. Department of Defense for three years.

Mr. Nicholson graduated with honors from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in Russian.

Zachary Ellison

Zachary Ellison
Preparedness Bureau Chief

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 is a 2009 graduate of Iowa State University with a bachelor of science degree in community and regional planning.

Julie Nishijima

Julie Nishijima
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.

Jon Paoli

Jonathan Paoli
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 & public information, WebEOC administration, and the training program.

He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Bonnie Rieder

Bonnie Rieder
Disaster Grants Bureau Chief

Bonnie Rieder has served as the Disaster Grants and Administration Bureau Chief of the Recovery Division since March 2019. Her team provides compliancy, financial, monitoring, budget, analytical, grant management and recovery operation support to the Recovery Division. During response activations, Ms. Rieder co-leads the response finance operations.

Ms. Rieder started her career in state government in August 1993 with the Iowa Department of Human Services in the Individual Assistance Program. In February 1994, she was hired by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to establish the Hazard Mitigation program finance section. She developed the financial procedures, administrative plans, first benefit cost analysis formula, and global match implementation. In 2005, Ms. Rieder became the senior budget analyst where she developed financial standard operating procedures, cost allocation methodologies, and personnel activity reporting for the department. In 2010, she accepted a position as a disaster project specialist where she provided grant financial and monitoring oversight to the disaster staff and recovery operations.

Ms. Rieder is a graduate of St. Cloud State University in mathematics and statistics with an accounting accreditation. She also has a minor in microcomputer studies.

Katie Waters

Katie Waters
Public Assistance Bureau Chief

Katie Waters began her career with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in 2008 as the Public Assistance administrative coordinator. In 2011, she was named deputy Public Assistance officer. In this role, she was responsible for coordinating, reviewing, and providing technical assistance for, and oversight of, the Public Assistance Program. Ms. Waters has led field operations for the Public Assistance program for several Presidentially declared disasters, overseeing the administration of approximately $79 million in federal and state grant funding. She also has assisted with final project closures for approximately 10,000 projects for 14 separate disasters, at an estimated value of $1.7 billion.

In April 2014, Ms. Waters became the chief of the Public Assistance Bureau, which is part of the Recovery Division. In this position she provides direction and guidance to Public Assistance Program staff during times of disaster recovery operations as well as day-to-day operations, and continues to coordinate with local, state and federal agencies.

Ms. Waters is a graduate of Iowa State University.

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