Anne Howard Hilbun-Benoit

Portrait of Anne Howard Hilbun-Benoit
Photo by Kevin Hudson

When a state of emergency is declared in Mississippi, three units in the Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine at Mississippi State are among many agencies ready to respond. 

Anne Howard Hilbun-Benoit helps place the right people and resources in the right places when the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency calls upon MSU units for assistance. The MSU Extension Service, the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station and the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine are written into MEMA’s comprehensive management plan.

An instructor with the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development, Hilbun-Benoit coordinates emergency management in all phases, from writing plans to training MSU Extension and MAFES employees in disaster response and relief work coordination for disaster sites.

She considers getting ahead of potential disasters and having a response plan as her life’s work. Building and maintaining a rapport between state agencies, county emergency managers and MSU’s supporting units is critical because it makes communication and response actions easier and faster during an emergency, she said.

“The worst time for me to hand over a business card is after a disaster has happened,” Hilbun-Benoit said. “I want that person to already know what we do and how we can help them. It’s a lot easier to work with someone you already know because you have a relationship established with that person. Every county in the state is different and the needs are different, but at the state level, we have to be prepared for what those needs might be.”

In 2009, less than a year after joining the GCD as a research associate, Hilbun-Benoit began research for a book she wanted to write about her grandfather, former MSU President Ben Hilbun. She came across an Extension circular from what was then the Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi. The document had been published soon after the Great Flood of 1927. She read all the ways Extension helped the flood victims, and her grandfather was credited with assisting the department in getting timely information to the victims.

“By then I was already passionate about emergency management,” she said, “but finding out my grandfather had done it too just sealed the deal. That’s when I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”

In her spare time, Hilbun-Benoit enjoys exploring the outdoors and spending time with family and friends.