CHDS ELP Graduates 32 Students

Thirty-two participants graduated from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Executive Leaders Program (ELP) in a ceremony at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, on Friday, Feb. 9. The program is designed for senior executive leaders representing a variety of homeland security enterprise agencies and organizations.  

Dillon Taylor, who serves as Chief of Staff and Senior Counsel for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said he was surprised and gratified to be named the Ellen Gordon Award winner for his cohort, which is chosen by all the participants, noting that he and most of his classmates would have liked for the program to have gone on even longer because “we were still getting to know each other and learn more about each other.”  

Ellen Gordon Award winner Dillon Taylor (right) with ELP Director Sara Kay

Named for a former longtime ELP Director, the Ellen Gordon Award recognizes program participants who exhibit the capacity to “seek knowledge beyond what is commonly known, to challenge the status quo.”  

Taylor said the program offered many highlights, such as presentations from experts and discussions on a range of topics from patriotism to federalism. He said that he would highly recommend the program to senior officials in the homeland security enterprise and praised the leadership of ELP Director Sara Kay and her team for their professionalism.  

“I really enjoyed those deep discussions in a safe space where we can have hard conversations and be reminded that, in public service, we can still do big things,” Taylor said. 

Kay said program participants “gelled as a cohort extremely well early in their first in-residence and maintained an exceptionally high level of collegiality throughout the program. They have modeled the growth mindset throughout their four weeks in the program. They came into the program with an obvious zest for learning and collaboration and maintained that zest throughout the program. They have been a delight to watch learn from each other and focus on ways they can strengthen the homeland security and public safety enterprise.” 

Co-facilitator Dominique Wong said she was impressed with the cohort’s “progression in curiosity, collaboration, and the rare ability to have difficult discussions on topics of homeland security importance.” 

ELP grad Dr. Janeana White, Deputy Public Health Authority and Chief Physician, Houston Health Department

Participant Dr. Janeana White, who serves as Deputy Public Health Authority and Chief Physician for the Houston Health Department, lauded the “diversity [of speakers and participants] in homeland security fields, both public and private,” which she said, “brought a tremendous perspective to our class.” 

“Surprisingly, we had homeland security ‘real-life’ events occurring in many of our jurisdictions that we didn’t shy away from discussing and we were willing to bring our authentic selves into the conversations,” she said. White added that the opportunity to have been selected as an ELP participant was “career changing.”  

“Working across disciplines with such knowledgeable colleagues, hearing from distinguished speakers at all levels of the homeland security enterprise, and being encouraged to think—[it all] really met the objectives of the program. I had no idea what to expect. This program absolutely met the non-degree graduate level: an educational program where we were reminded, we are leaders being supported in enhancing our decision making and being innovative collaborators as the description states.” 

“I would highly recommend this program to senior-level homeland security and public safety leaders.” 

ELP grad James Johnson, Chief of the Security Management Branch, Transportation Security Administration

Fellow participant James Johnson, who serves as Chief of the Security Management Branch for the Transportation Security Administration, said the program’s “journey was nothing short of extraordinary right from the start. The warm welcome I received from the CDHS faculty and staff set an incredibly positive tone for the entire experience, and I knew I was in for something special. Throughout the program, I was consistently challenged to think critically, pushing the boundaries of my skills to confront challenges head-on. The insights shared by nationally recognized speakers were absolutely invaluable, propelling my leadership abilities to new heights.” 

Johnson added that “graduating alongside my cohort members was a moment of immense pride, made even more meaningful by the unwavering support of my incredible wife, Cynthia. The bonds we forged during our class dinners, our ‘walk in the woods,’ and our daily ‘what’s on your mind’ discussions were truly exceptional—creating connections that I know will last well beyond our time in the program. Sharing this milestone is a memory I will never forget.” 

Executive Leaders Program 2301 participants 

  • Daniel Baker – Health Scientist, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Atlanta, GA 
  • Lynn Budd – Director, WY Office of Homeland Security – Cheyenne, WY 
  • Clara Decerbo – Director, Providence Emergency Management Agency – Providence, RI 
  • Vincent DeLaurentis – Deputy Executive Assistant Director for Emergency Communications, CISA, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency/DHS – Fairfax Station, VA 
  • Wayne Dumais – Deputy Director, DHS, S&T – Washington, DC
  • Susan Dzbanko – Deputy Director, Arizona Department of Homeland Security – Phoenix, AZ 
  • David Engler – Fire Chief, Lincoln Fire & Rescue – Lincoln, NE 
  • Craig Erlanger – Deputy Office Director, Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission – McLean, VA 
  • Helen Fitzpatrick – Executive Director of Administration, City of Seattle – Seattle, WA 
  • Thomas Friloux – The Adjutant General of Louisiana, Louisiana National Guard – New Orleans, LA 
  • Winkle Hobie Hong – Director, Disciplinary Review Division, Metropolitan Police Department – Washington, DC
  • Jiancheng Huang – Director, Clatsop County Department of Public Health – Astoria, OR 
  • James Johnson – Chief, Security Management Branch, Transportation Security Administration – Springfield, VA 
  • Forest Kaser – Deputy Executive Director of Safety and Enforcement and Safety Policy, California Public Utilities Commission – Berkeley, CA 
  • Kimberly Kull – Division Chief of Emergency Management and Logistics, City of Evanston Fire Department – Evanston, IL 
  • Cathy Madalone – Chief of Police, Pacific Grove Police Department – Monterey , CA 
  • Lauren Mahon – Chief Strategy Officer, New York City Emergency Management – New York City, NY 
  • Andrew McArtor – Assistant to the Special Agent in Charge (ATSAIC), United States Secret Service – Los Angeles, CA 
  • Brad McNally – Federal Executive Fellow, Brookings Institution, US Coast Guard – Washington, DC
  • Douglas Newman – Chief of Police, DuPont Police Department – DuPont, WA 
  • Frank Pace – Administrator, Hawaii Office of Homeland Security – Honolulu, HI 
  • Susan Perkins – Senior Advisor, Security and Incident Preparedness, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) – Washington, DC 
  • Amanda Philpot – Special Agent, U.S. Dept of State – Vienna, VA 
  • Mark Savage – Fire Chief, Fry Fire District – Sierra Vista, AZ 
  • Cory Schmidt – Fire Chief, Grand Island Fire Department – Grand Island, NE 
  • Michael Sharon – Chief, Emergency Programs Division, USDA Office of Homeland Security – Washington, DC
  • Jamal Simington – Chief of Police, Bloomington Police Department – Bloomington, IL 
  • Boone Smith – Executive Director, DHS/CBP/International Affairs – Lothian, MD 
  • Dillon Taylor – Chief of Staff & Senior Counsel, VDEM – Richmond, VA 
  • Jeffrey Toney – Director, County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services – San Diego, CA 
  • David Wall – Counterterrorism Coordinator, NYPD – New York, NY 
  • Janeana White – Deputy Public Health Authority, Houston Health Department – Houston, TX

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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