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Cal OES Director Nancy Ward

portrait of Nancy Ward with the American, State, and Cal OES flags behind her

Nancy Ward

Nancy Ward is the Director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), the first woman to hold the position, which she started in January 2023. Ward started her Emergency Management career in 1985, with the California Department of Social Services and went on to serve in several positions at Cal OES starting in the early 90s and again in 2014, bringing decades of distinguished leadership in emergency management, including at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Ward had been a Retired Annuitant at Cal OES since 2017, where she was Chief Deputy Director and Homeland Security Deputy Advisor from 2014 to 2017. In 2009, she served as the FEMA Acting Administrator within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Ward was Regional Administrator for FEMA Region IX, which serves Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and American Samoa, from 2006 to 2014, and served as FEMA Response and Recovery Division Director from 2000 to 2006.

Ward served in two details at FEMA headquarters as the Deputy Director of the Recovery Directorate during FEMA’s response and recovery operations for the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. She has also served in various senior management positions in more than 100 disasters, including severe storms, flooding, wildfires, landslides, mudslides, and earthquakes in California, response to 911 and Hurricane Katrina, and Pacific area earthquakes, tsunamis, and severe drought.

Before joining FEMA, Ward was Chief of the Disaster Assistance Branch and Deputy State Coordinating Officer for Cal OES. She administered the state’s Natural Disaster Assistance Act program assistance provisions, which provide disaster assistance funding to local governments for state-level emergencies and disasters.

Ward has received awards for extraordinary accomplishments, including the 2007 DHS Award for Excellence for her leadership during the California wildfires, President Obama’s 2009 Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Executive, was inducted in 2012 into the International Woman in Homeland Security and Emergency Management Hall of Fame, and received the 2023 California Woman in Homeland Security Leadership Award.