Deborah Hersman

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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 (1970-05-01) May 1, 1970 (age 44)
Edwards Air Force Base,
California, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
George Mason University

Deborah A.P. Hersman 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 raised in West Virginia and lived with her family in places such as Amman, Jordan, and Madrid, Spain. She also attended Hahn High School in West Germany. 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 holds a commercial driver license (with passenger, school bus, and air brake endorsements) and a motorcycle endorsement.[4]

In 1992, she earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and International Studies from Virginia Tech. In 1999, she earned an M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University.[5] Hersman is married to a former Virginia Tech classmate, Niel Plummer,[6] a software engineer for Lockheed Martin. 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]

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, the youngest person ever to fill that position.[7] 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.[8] Her nomination was confirmed by voice vote on October 16, 2013.[9]

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.[10]


  1. ^ "Deborah Hersman quits NTSB for National Safety Council,0,2283402.story#ixzz2vh0FTjc8". 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. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  7. ^ "George Mason University". Retrieved 2013-07-13. 
  8. ^ "Official NTSB website". Retrieved 2013-10-15. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Hope Katz Gibbs (2009-11-16). "Getting The Story Right". The National Press Club. Retrieved 2013-07-13. 

External links[edit]

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