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Enhancing Homeland Safety and Security; Lisa Conte ’96

Lisa Conte '96

Every work day, thousands of New Jersey commuters ride buses rather than drive their own cars, helping relieve congestion on one of the nation’s busiest highway systems.

As part of her job with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, Lisa Conte ’96 helps ensure that the operators of those buses know what to do if faced with an incident that threatens the safety of their passengers.

Last summer, Conte helped coordinate an exercise that put the bus owners’ emergency response plans through their paces to identify any gaps. It was the first such exercise involving buses ever conducted in the United States.

“With an exercise you lay out different scenarios and test them via telephone,” Conte says. “The Federal Department of Homeland Security exercise team comes in and creates scenarios, such as a bomb or a suicide bomber on a bus.

“Then the bus owners explain what their plans are and how they would respond. It’s a way of identifying if the plans work. If they don’t, we go back and determine why, and then work toward correcting them.”

The bus exercise was just a small part of Conte’s job, which involves ensuring the safety and security of New Jersey’s critical infrastructure sites, such as utilities and telecommunications, transportation and public health facilities.

“We do an assessment of each site and determine who the responsible jurisdictions would be should there be an event at that site. From there we identify what their equipment or other needs are to better secure the site.”

With this information in hand, Conte – whose title is Homeland Security Grant Liaison – applies for federal grants that help pay for the needed equipment. Once the grants are approved she works with the sites to make sure they spend the money appropriately.

For Conte, the job is also part of a personal exercise in learning about local, state and federal government – an interest she’s had since she was young. It’s held such a fascination for her, in fact, that not only did she major in business administration and political science at Albright, she went on to earn her juris doctor degree from Rutgers School of Law in 2003. Not so she can practice law, but to give her a better understanding of the legislative process.

“I went to law school as a means of understanding how the legal process works and how laws are applied,” Conte says. “I thought that it would be important that if I someday got the opportunity to write or create laws that I understand how they’re going to be used.”

In the meantime, in 2002 Conte also earned a master’s degree in public affairs and politics from The Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Adding to Conte’s knowledge base is the experience she’s gained working for other government entities, including the New Jersey Office of Management and Budget, the federal Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Conte moved back to her hometown of Mt. Laurel, N.J., last year. Shortly afterward she was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Mt. Laurel Planning Board, thereby sowing the seeds of her own political career.

– Bob Shade

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