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College dean hopes to make state safe

Posted On : December 3rd, 2010

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has recently appointed Emir Macari, dean of Sacramento State's College of Engineering and Computer Science, to be on the California Seismic Safety Commission and to be the "go-to" person for all of California's earthquake-related issues.

According to the California Safety Commission website, a total of 20 qualified candidates have been nominated and then appointed as members of the commission. The term of office for a commissioner is four years.

"It is a great honor for me to serve the state of California in the capacity of commissioner of the California Seismic Safety Commission," Macari said. "I have received broad support from many different groups including the California Assembly, Congresswoman Matsui, and (Sac State's) President Gonzalez."

As a California Seismic Safety commissioner, Macari's duties would include investigating earthquakes, managing California's earthquake hazards reduction program, proposing and reviewing earthquake-related legislation, recommending earthquake safety programs needed to reduce earthquake risks to the governor and Legislature, among other duties.

Schwarzenegger selected Macari, along with seven other appointees, to present their expertise on structural engineering, and geotechnical, geological and seismological services.

"The governor always picks the most qualified people for the position," said Melinda Malone, a spokeswoman from the governor's office. "And that is why Macari was chosen."

Richard McCarthy, director of the California Seismic Safety Commission, provided more information about why Macari was selected by the governor.

"The governor was particularly impressed with Macari's qualifications in the academic community, as well as his connections to certain Spanish-speaking countries, particularly Mexico," he said. "Macari will be a great asset to our continued sponsorships with Mexico, especially Baja, Calif. That is a great value."

Prior to being part of Sac State's faculty, Macari was program director of the Center of Research Excellence in Science and Technology at the National Science Foundation.

"I have traveled to different places in the world to explore the causes and damages from earthquakes. My research has focused on strategies to mitigate damage and loss of life from natural disasters, including earthquake, hurricanes and floods," he said.

Macari said his mother told him he was destined to become an "earthquake engineer."

"I was born in Mexico City, seven days after a huge earthquake that rocked the city," he said. "My mother tells me that we were supposed to move into a building that collapsed in the quake but we waited because I was late in her delivery."

He recalls another earthquake that took place in Mexico City, where a 7.8 aftershock "rattled" everyone's nerves.

"I flew down there with the U.S. technical delegation the next day, and stood there in the street answering questions of all of the neighbors because (at the time) I was doing my Ph.D. in earthquake engineering," Macari said.

Because California is earthquake-prone, Macari said he is eager to join the commission and get started on making California a safer place.

"A state like California lives with tectonic movement as a matter of fact. The California Seismic Safety Commission helps inform the discussion of safety of citizens and property in the state as a result of impending seismic activity," he said.

McCarthy said Macari's long experience in dealing with geotechnical issues is complementary to the commission's mission to reduce earthquake risk and damage to structures.

Although Macari will be focusing his efforts on the state's geotechnical issues, he will be expected to multitask outside his area of expertise.

"All commissioners are expected to participate in many areas and on many issues to work as a team to produce the most cost-effecting product to the state," McCarthy said.

Although the governor has appointed Macari, the California Senate must approve and officially confirm the appointment.

Sac State President Alexander Gonzalez, however, is certain the Senate will approve Macari.

"Dr. Macari has spent his career building an impressive body of work in the geotechnical engineering field. I am confident he will serve the commission with unparalleled dedication and skill, and his appointment will further the governor's commitment to a safer California," Gonzalez said in a statement.

Laila Barakat can be reached at lbarakat@statehornet.com.

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