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Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, will leave the post to become the president and CEO of the National Safety Council. / Susan Walsh, AP

The longtime head of the National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that she is leaving the post to become head of the National Safety Council.

Deborah Hersman has spent nearly 10 years at the board that investigates accidents and serious incidents involving aviation, railroads, highways and pipelines. She became the public face of the board as the on-site member for the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco in July.

"I look back at the hundreds of investigations and recommendations that have been issued during my tenure at the NTSB, and I have seen the landscape of transportation safety improve before my eyes," Hersman said in a written statement.

Her advocacy for safety in face of occasional industry resistance earned her respect across the government and transportation industry.

"Debbie Hersman has been an absolutely effective and fearless chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. and chairman of the committee that oversees the board. "Whenever there was a transportation accident, I always trusted that Debbie would put the full weight of the NTSB behind any investigation, and she would be tireless in working to uncover the facts."

Hersman will work at the council in suburban Chicago. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, the council is a non-profit organization whose mission is to save lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

"Debbie is a recognized leader in safety, with a front-line understanding of the value of protecting human life through thoughtful attention and management of risk," said Jeff Woodbury, chairman of the council's board of directors. "Her proven leadership and expertise made her the ideal candidate to take the Council successfully into its second century."

The previous council president was paid $522,808 in 2011, according to the group's tax form.

The NTSB with a staff of 400 and a $100 million budget makes recommendations about steps that airlines, manufacturers and regulators can take to make travel safer. But the recommendations are non-binding.

Besides studying crashes, the board makes safety recommendations, such as urging states to lower the blood-alcohol level for drunken drivers from 0.08% to 0.05%, in an effort to reduce crashes and fatalities.

Hersman attended Virginia Tech where she received bachelor's degrees in political science and international studies, according to the NTSB website. She received a master's in conflict analysis and resolution from George Mason University.

Before her appointment to the board in 2004, Hersman served for five years on the staff of the Senate Transportation Committee. She was earlier a staffer for a House member from her native West Virginia.

The current committee chairman, Rockefeller, urged her appointment as secretary of Transportation last year. But President Obama chose former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx instead and Hersman was confirmed to another five-year term in the fall.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: NTSB chief leaving to lead the National Safety Council

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