2023 LRW at ASLRRA Annual Conference & Exhibition Speakers
U.S. Government Affairs
Andrea Waldock Niethold is the Director of U.S. Government Affairs at CN. Based in Washington, D.C., Ms. Waldock Niethold engages with federal lawmakers and regulators on issues important to CN and the freight railroad industry.
In 2020, Ms. Waldock Niethold founded and now chairs the Women’s Employee (WE) Resource Group (ERG) at CN, and she is currently a member of the League of Railway Women Events Committee. In 2021, Ms. Waldock Niethold was named a Rising Star by Progressive Railroading Magazine.
Ms. Waldock Niethold has a decade worth of experience working in various legislative capacities on Capitol Hill. Before joining CN, she served as Chief of Staff to a former senior member of the House Railroad Subcommittee.
Ms. Waldock Niethold holds an A.B.D. and a Master’s Degree in Education Policy and Administration from the Catholic University of America and a Bachelor of Science Degree from Butler University in Indianapolis, IN. She currently lives in Washington, DC with her husband and three young sons.
Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Jacqueline Peets-Graves is the Director of Diversity Equity and Inclusion at Norfolk Southern in Atlanta, GA.
She began her professional career at Norfolk Southern as a Transportation Management Trainee in Kansas City, Missouri. After years in Transportation, Jackie’s desire to continuously challenge herself led her to explore roles in various NS departments including Casualty Claims, where she negotiated toxic exposure claims and managed Discovery for cases in litigation. Strategic Planning, where she primarily managed public private partnerships. And most recently, Human Resources, where she blends her organizational expertise, with her passion for fostering an inclusive & equitable organizational culture, as a leader on the DEI team.
Jackie holds an undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University and a graduate degree from The College of William & Mary. She has been recognized as one of Railway Age’s Fast Tracker–10 Under 40 and has been recognized for her longstanding work with Employee Resource Groups.
Jackie is inspired daily by her husband (a fellow railroader), their two children, and by the many opportunities to be a catalyst for positive change at work and within her community.
Erika BrunhkeVP, Training
Erika Bruhnke is the Vice President of Training Services for RailPros, leading the organization’s Training and Media Services divisions. These divisions create and deliver vital rail safety programs to both contractor and railroad employees, as well as supporting the RailPros staff with their training needs.
Prior to joining RailPros, Erika spent a decade with BNSF Railway. She began as a Management Trainee, graduating to the role of a Terminal Train master in Seattle, WA. She quickly promoted to a Division Safety Manager in Billings, MT and a few years later to a Senior Safety Manager role at BNSF headquarters.
After joining the system safety team, she progressed through the safety ranks, concluding her BNSF career as the Director of System Safety where she oversaw all system safety
communications and training.
During her time with BNSF, Erika also was an active participant in regional diversity councils, eventually assuming the role as President of the Women’s Network.
Currently, Erika serves on the Board of Directors for the National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association (NRC) and the League of Railway Women (LRW) and participates on Committee 24 with the American Railway Engineering & Maintenance of Way Association (AREMA) and the Supplier and Young Professionals Committees with the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA).
BlankRome Government Relations, LLC
Katie Kachel is a Principal in Blank Rome Government Relations, LLC, where she lobbies the federal government on behalf of several passenger and freight railroads across the country, including in Texas, Alaska, California, as well as the short line railroad trade association and a Class I freight railroad, traversing many states.
Before starting her career in government affairs, Ms. Kachel was the Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff of U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time. Her duties included advising the Senator on appropriations and other legislative issues, drafting testimony and press releases, and representing the Senator in meetings with state and local government officials and business leaders. Prior to her position in the U.S. Senate, Ms. Kachel served as a legislative aid to Maryland State Senator John C. Astle (D-Annapolis), Vice Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, where she assisted with banking and insurance policy issues, as well as constituent casework.
Ms. Kachel holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Maryland College Park and a dual M.A. in Government and M.B.A. degree from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Kachel is a two-time awardee of the Bryce Harlow Foundation (BHF) Fellowship, which is committed to enhancing the quality of professional advocacy and increasing the understanding of its essential role in the development of sound public policy.
Ms. Kachel is past Chair of the BHF Alumni Advisory Board. Ms. Kachel is also a Co-Chair of the Women in Government Relations (WGR) Transportation & Infrastructure Task Force. WGR is the premier, non-partisan professional society for those who have responsibilities and interests in the field of government relations and/or public affairs. Founded in 1975, WGR has over 1200 members at every career level of government relations representing a wide array of private, non-profit and public sector organizations.
Susan BobbVice President, Human Resources, Labor Relations & EH&S
Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc.
A firm believer in collaboration, Susan believes HR can be a source of complex problem-solving by bringing teams together and finding ways to create new business partnerships. Susan began her career in Information Technology at Canadian Pacific Railway in Calgary, Alberta. She served as a system manager for fault-tolerant systems and an EDI application developer for the Class 1 railway. She then moved on to an IT leadership position at Dell Computers in Austin, Texas, before returning to her passion of the rail industry and transitioning into HR for CP in the Toronto area. Serving in a HR Sr. Director role, she was accountable for organizational design, people and performance development strategies, and employee relations.
Susan is a Southern New Hampshire University graduate with a bachelor's degree in industrial and organizational psychology. She also earned a HR Certification from the Senior Professional Human Resources Institute. Susan and Bryan, her husband of 28 years, have four daughters, all residing in Canada.
Jo StrangSenior Vice Presient for Safety, Regulatory and Environmental Policy
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association
Jo Strang is currently the Senior Vice President for Safety, Regulatory and Environmental Policy at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. As such she represents the small business interests of 550 railroads and 500 railroad suppliers before the government. She provides expert safety advice to members and the Short Line Safety Institute. Prior to joining the ASLRRA she served as the Associate Administrator for Safety at FRA and was responsible for safety regulatory and enforcement in the Unites States. She was awarded the Presidential Rank Award in 2009 in recognition of her outstanding service as the Acting Deputy Administrator during the President Obama transition. Prior to that she served as the Deputy Associate Administrator for Railroad Development where she was responsible for railroad research and development and financial assistance programs. Prior to that she served as the head of the railroad division for accident investigation at NTSB, where she was responsible for railroad accident investigation. Jo is also the Chair of Operation Lifesaver Board of Directors and serves as the Chair of the TRB committee on Rail Safety.
Senior Director of Buisness Development
Anacostia Rail Holdings
Kimia Khatami began her career in transportation with Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, Nebraska where she held various positions in the marketing and sales department. Since 2015, she has been with Anacostia Rail Holdings, a short line holding company with locations all around the United States. She spent the first six years at their subsidiary railroad, Pacific Harbor Line, and in 2021, was promoted to their corporate headquarters in Chicago. Her experience includes managing large scale commercial projects, bridging partnerships between the private and public sector, business development, and environmental regulatory compliance. She is a strong supporter of efforts to promote diversity within the railroad industry and active in organizations which provide mentorship to students interested in pursuing careers in the industry. Kimia’s efforts have been recognized throughout the years, including being named a Progressive Railroading Rising Star in 2019 and being nominated for the 2017 Association of American Railroads John H. Chafee Environmental Excellence Award for her efforts in ensuring PHL’s environmental compliance in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Ms. Khatami also serves on the executive committee of several non-profit industry organizations and will be completing her master’s degree in Transportation and Supply Chain from the University of Denver in June 2023.
Jennifer Mitchell was appointed as Deputy Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration in April 2022. In that role, she provides executive leadership and direction on agency operations and policy matters, including the agency’s safety and rail development activities.
Ms. Mitchell has over 25 years of experience working in the transportation industry in both the public and private sectors. Prior to joining the FRA, she served for eight years as Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DPRT) where she led several strategic initiatives. These include landmark agreements between CSX, Norfolk Southern Railway and Amtrak to significantly expand passenger rail service in the State over the next ten years, as well as advancing construction of the new Long Bridge across the Potomac River. Jennifer also helped lead the creation of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission in collaboration with Maryland and the District of Columbia. She played a key role in securing dedicated regional funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, development of a new transit ridership incentive grant programs, and creation of the Commonwealth’s SmartScale multimodal transportation funding program.
Ms. Mitchell has served on boards of the American Public Transportation Association, Women’s Transportation Seminar, and the Eno Transportation Foundation. In 2018 she was named by Railway Age as a Woman of the Year, and in 2020 she was named by the Council of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) as a Woman that Moves the Nation. She holds a Bachelor of City Planning degree from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Allison Ishihara Fultz
Allison Ishihara Fultz is Chief Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). She is the principal legal advisor to the agency and leads FRA’s staff of legal professionals.
Allison joined FRA from private practice, where she focused her work on transactional and regulatory matters related to transportation infrastructure projects. She represented public transportation providers, a transit safety oversight agency, State departments of transportation and regional transportation bodies, local governments, and private entities nationwide before numerous federal agencies and state and federal courts. She counseled clients extensively on the acquisition and abandonment of railroad rights-of-way, shared use of rail corridors by freight and passenger operators, rails-to-trails proposals, regulation and contracting for inter-city passenger rail service, infrastructure project development, historic preservation, environmental reporting, agency rulemaking, project procurement, and drafting and negotiation of contracts for railroad construction, operations, and maintenance services.
Allison has also authored studies and served as a committee member for the Transportation Research Board. She served on the Montgomery County, Maryland, Board of Appeals, including as its Chairman, for eight years, deciding on petitions for relief under the County’s zoning ordinance on numerous land use and administrative matters.
Prior to entering the practice of law, Allison was a registered architect and designed and directed construction projects and feasibility studies for projects in the United States and Canada.
Allison received her JD from the American University Washington College of Law, and her AB and Master of Architecture degrees from Princeton University.
Deputy Director, Regional Outreach
Wynne Davis has over 20 years of experience overseeing the planning, design, construction and operation of rail, transit and infrastructure programs. She currently serves as the Deputy Director for Regional Outreach with the Office of Rail Development at the Federal Railroad Administration.
Previously, as a WSP Technical Director, Wynne led the team producing and implementing the integrated transport plan for Dubai World Expo 2020. She served as an executive-level strategic advisor to the Dubai Road and Transport Authority on organizational design, transport planning and operational initiatives.
Wynne was also a senior program manager for the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration where she was responsible for evaluating, selecting and overseeing the delivery of over 70 infrastructure projects totaling $2.6 billion.
Also at USDOT, Wynne led the Intercity Rail Program Management Office, designing, implementing and evaluating business processes for $10.5 billion in nationwide infrastructure investments. In this capacity, she led interactions with the United States Congress, national media, oversight inspectors, and regional governments.
Wynne’s professional career began as a logistics and supply chain officer in the US Army, where she planned and executed complex multinational transportation and logistics operations across Europe, the Balkans and the Middle East.
Monique Ferguson Stewart
Special Assistant to the FRA Administrator
Ms. Stewart has over 25 years of railroad experience. Her railroad career began as a manager in the Locomotive Engineering department at CSX Transportation in Jacksonville, FL. She currently serves as Senior Program Manager/Mechanical Engineer at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) where she was hired as the first African American female engineer. Ms. Stewart works in FRA’s Office of Research, Development & Technology overseeing projects related to Rolling Stock Equipment and Components such as brakes, wheels, roller bearings and equipment health monitoring. Ms. Stewart prides herself in ‘making sure all voices are represented at the table’, which is evident in her research efforts including her Very Long Trains Study and Wheel Research program. Ms. Stewart is working closely with industry stakeholders conducting simulations and tests to ensure Very Long Trains are operating safely through better understanding of air brake performance. Her Wheel Research Program includes a partnership with industry contributing towards a better understanding of wheel failures, mitigation, reduced derailments and risks associated with wheel failures. Ms. Stewart also serves as the Program Lead for the Workforce Development Program addressing railroad industry workforce challenges and helping to sustain and promote a diverse and equitable railroad workforce. Ms. Stewart is proud of her role in executing FRA’s mission through research and development of innovative and technological solutions to ensure America’s railroads are operating safely through ALL communities. She manages an expansive project portfolio of over 26 research projects with a budget that once totaled almost $90 Million and included oversight and management of FRA’s Transportation Technology Center (TTC) in Pueblo, CO. Ms. Stewart has authored and co-authored over 60 technical publications and papers. She has traveled the world exchanging and sharing her research on both national and international platforms and conferences throughout the United States, Brazil, Canada, South Africa, Italy, Portugal, Australia, Japan, and Spain.
You can often find Ms. Stewart sharing her passion for Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) and her railroad career experience with students; encouraging them to consider STEM related studies or railroading as a career of choice. Ms. Stewart earned her degrees under a Dual Degree Program. She has a Mechanical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and is also an HBCU graduate of North Carolina Central University where she earned her Mathematics degree.
Senior Vice President Law & General Counsel
American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA)
Sarah Yurasko is Sr. Vice President Law & General Counsel with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). In this position, she advises on all legal matters for ASLRRA and represents the short line industry nationally on policy matters. Prior to ASLRRA, she worked at the Association of American Railroads as Assistant General Counsel, focusing on safety law issues.
She previously worked at Amtrak on high-speed rail planning and policy development. She started her career as a trial attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). While at the FRA, Ms. Yurasko completed the Executive Potential Program through the Graduate School USA, a leadership development program that provides training and developmental experiences for high potential employees.
She earned a JD from American University’s Washington College of Law and an MA in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service. She also has a BA in French and a BFA in Theatre Arts from Southern Methodist University.
Kate Luce BourgeoisPresident & CEO
Susan MarinesVice President Global Talent