CELEBRATING WOMEN WHO
MOVE THE NATION
The COMTO Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation Awards Breakfast recognizes the outstanding contributions of women leading and advancing America’s transportation industry. In observance of Women’s History Month, to date, we have inducted 116 women into this signature class of leaders in the transportation industry.
Representing a broad cross-section of multi-modal transportation in both the private and public sectors, these women exemplify the very definition of excellence. While their areas of influence and affiliations are diverse, their unequivocal commitment to advancing and strengthening our nation’s infrastructure is unparalleled.
Thank You Industry Partners!
Friends of COMTO
Verdenia C. Baker, Administrator, Palm Beach County
Verdenia, a certified Government Financial Manager, was chosen as the Palm Beach County Administrator in 2015. She oversees 6,800 positions and balances a $6 billion budget. Palm Beach County is Florida’s third-largest county with a population of 1.5 million and growing. Notably, Palm Beach is one of four Florida counties and one of 50 counties nationally, achieving the AAA bond rating, critical for financial stability.
Verdenia’s career with Palm Beach County began as a budget analyst in 1987. She demonstrates the ability to collaborate with strategic partners to enhance the quality of life for residents and businesses. Verdenia led negotiations in recruiting the Florida Scripps Research Institute to Palm Beach County, a foundation of the local biotechnology industry. Verdenia again was the leader in a voter-approved 2016 Infrastructure Sales Tax initiative, expected to generate $2.7 billion for new and renovated schools, roads and facilities over 10 years.
Verdenia led initiatives such as the Mandatory Inclusionary Workforce Housing Program, Community Land Trust, re-implemented the small, minority and women business enterprise program in 2019, and the recently created Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Verdenia is a part of national, state, local, professional, and community organizations and has received numerous accolades. While Verdenia’s acknowledgments span many years, her recognitions in 2021 include Florida’s Onyx Magazine’s one of 2021’s Women on the Move, honoring the state’s most impactful and influential women. The 2021 Leadership Heroes in Medicine Award from the Palm Beach County Medical Society in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2021, Verdenia became President of the Florida Association of County Managers, a collective body of all 67 counties in Florida.
Verdenia holds a Master of Science Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Rehabilitative Services, both from Florida State University.
Verdenia is married to Joe, and they have two daughters, Jasmin, Shannee and a granddaughter, Lauren Nicole.
Muriel Bowser, Mayor, Washington, DC
Muriel Bowser is committed to making sure every Washingtonian gets a fair shot in a growing and prosperous Washington, DC. Her administration is focused on making DC’s prosperity more inclusive, advancing DC values, and building safer, stronger, and healthier neighborhoods across DC’s eight wards.
Washington, DC is unique in the American political system – the mayor, DC’s chief executive, functions as a governor, county executive, and mayor. Like governors, Mayor Bowser runs Medicaid, issues driver’s licenses, and has tax authority. Like county executives, Mayor Bowser runs the local jail, and, unlike most mayors, also oversees the public school system. In 2020, Washington, DC is home to 705,000 people across 68 square miles, has a AAA bond rating, and an annual budget of more than $15 billion.
On November 6, 2018, Muriel Bowser became the first woman ever re-elected as the Mayor of Washington, DC and the first mayor to earn a second term in 16 years. Since taking office, the Mayor has taken bold steps to reset DC’s global and national competitiveness, speed up affordable housing production, diversify the DC economy, increase satisfaction in city services, and invest in programs and policies that allow more families to live and thrive in DC.
In the past five years, Mayor Bowser has:
- added more than 57,000 jobs, reduced unemployment by 28 percent, and increased DC Government’s annual spending with local businesses by $200 million;
- chaired the National League of Cities Task Force on Housing, doubled the District’s annual investment in affordable housing, and set a bold goal to build 36,000 new homes by 2025;
- transformed DC’s homeless services system, building small, service-enriched shelters across the city and bringing chronic homelessness to a 15-year low;
- championed a wide range of family-friendly policies, including: raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, adding more than 1,000 new child care seats, and focusing the DC Government’s attention on improving maternal health outcomes;
- delivered a new stadium for DC United (Major League Soccer) and a new arena for the Mystics (WNBA) that includes a practice facility for the Wizards (NBA);
- deployed the first major city body-worn camera program;
- collaborated with leaders from C40 cities around the world to advance the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement;
- led diplomatic and economic development missions to China, Cuba, Israel, Canada, El Salvador, and Ethiopia; and
- spearheaded the 2016 voter referendum on DC statehood, with more than 86 percent of voters approving of statehood.
Prior to becoming Mayor in 2015, Bowser served as the Ward 4 Councilmember on the Council of the District of Columbia – first elected in a special election in 2007 and re-elected in 2008 and 2012. As a Councilmember, she served as the Chairwoman of the Committee on Economic Development which created more than 5,000 units of affordable housing, passed legislation to build the new soccer stadium, and secured from the federal government the best portion of the Walter Reed campus for DC. She also led her colleagues to pass comprehensive ethics reform and increased transparency in government contracting.
Mayor Bowser earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Chatham University and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from American University, and received honorary doctorates from Chatham University and Trinity University. With more than 20 years of experience in local government, she first entered elected office as an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in the Riggs Park neighborhood.
Alva Carrasco, President, Latinos In Transit Board of Directors; Vice President – Transit & Rail National Business Line, West Regional Market Lead, WSP USA
Alva Carrasco is the President of Latinos In Transit (LIT), a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing Latinos and other minorities in the transportation field. Alva has been a LIT Board Member since its inception in 2016. She helped to build the organization from the bottom up. Under her leadership, LIT’s membership has exponentially grown and has forged partnerships with multiple public and private industry organizations such as COMTO and the Transit Research Board (TRB).
Alva is also the Vice President – Transit and Rail National Business Line’s West Region Market Lead at WSP USA. She is responsible for business development in the West and Southwest Regions of the United States. She also oversees multiple projects assisting transit service providers in transitioning fossil fuels to zero-emission vehicles.
Alva has over 30 years of experience working in the transit industry. She began her career in public transit as an entry-level administrative assistant and has worked her way up to various leadership and executive positions while furthering her education. She has dedicated her time in public transit to providing communities with clean alternative modes of transportation, reducing congestion, improving operational efficiencies, improving the customer experience, and workforce development in what she considers a “green-collar” industry. She has successfully managed multimillion-dollar projects and provided leadership to large workforce groups responsible for safely transporting millions of passengers at transit agencies such as Los Angeles Metro and VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, Texas.
Alva is a graduate of San Jose State University/Mineta Transportation Institute. Alva graduated from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Leadership Class of 2002, is a two-time American Public Transportation Foundation recipient, and currently serves as an APTA Emerging Leaders Program National Mentor and TRB Minority Fellows Mentor.
Alva is a member of several industry committees, including the APTA Diversity & Inclusion Council, the TRB Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, Transit Cooperative Research Program TOPS Council and the California Transit Association Inclusion Diversity Equity Association Task Force Vice-Chair.
Trenelle Doyle, Founder & CEO, Go Girl Ride
Trenelle Doyle, the Funder of Go Girl Ride, is a person-centered safety authority committed to
creating a lane in the rideshare industry that centers identity as its core value. With more than
15 years of service and operations experience, Trtenelle is not only an advocate; but a
champion for transportation justice that is radical in its effort to “meet people where that are.
Latronia Durham, President, Durham Transport
Latronia Durham is the President of Durham Transport. She is a native of Shreveport, Louisiana who loves family and has always had a fondness for trucks. After years in the oil field industry, that passion led her to educate herself on what it takes to start a business. Through the help of her mother, she was successful in obtaining a loan to purchase her first truck and becoming an owner-operator and a business owner.
In 2016 she launched Durham Transport Express and despite the adversity, she managed to help make a major impact for women in the male-dominated Trucking Industry.
In 2020 she purchased over 6 acres of land to become the home of a multifaceted company. In addition to her trucking company she has opened the first Family-Owned All African-American trucking school named Durham Transport Academy along with Durham Transport Parking, offering commercial parking, Durham Transport Logistics, dispatching freight and Durham Transport Tires, selling new commercial tires.
Since then Latronia has become a partner of the Fair Share Program, African American Chamber of Commerce, Minority-Owned Women accreditation and has been selected to help collaborate with the 2022 Harvard Business School Field Immersion Course.
In establishing her company her goal is to eliminate some of the struggles that she and her family endured along the way. Latronia’s mission is to provide jobs and create opportunities for individuals in pursuit of more lucrative careers.
Carole Hopson, First Officer, Boeing 737 for United Airlines
Carole Hopson flies the Boeing 737 for United Airlines as a First Officer, based in Newark, NJ.
After a remarkable 20-year career as a journalist and executive, she followed her dream to become a pilot and share her passion with others as a flight instructor while raising her family.
Despite her success, Carole always yearned to follow a childhood passion. Walking away from executive-level positions, she went to flight school with enthusiasm and completed flight training at the peak of her corporate accomplishments.
True to her roots as a writer, Carole has published her first novel, A Pair of Wings: A Novel Based on the Life of Pioneer Aviatrix Bessie Coleman, the first American to earn the French civilian pilot’s license
Aei Jolly, Assistant General Counsel, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida; Chair, JTA Board of Directors
Ari Jolly is a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida (Florida Blue) Assistant General Counsel. In this role, Ari is responsible for providing primary legal support to Florida Blue on governance, merger and acquisitions, and counsel to Investment and Corporate Development operations of the mutual holding enterprise. Ari also provides board governance support related to GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation subsidiary and joint venture companies.
Ari joined Florida Blue in 1993. Before joining Florida Blue, Ari practiced with the law firm of Rogers, Towers, Bailey, Jones and Gay in Jacksonville, Florida. Ari also served as an Officer in the United States Navy in the office of the Judge Advocate General from 1983 – 1990 and the recipient of a Navy Achievement Medal (1987).
Throughout her career, Ari has been active in community and professional organizations. She is a member of the Florida and Jacksonville Bar and also serves on the boards of the Greater Jacksonville Area USO and the Naval Continuing Care Retirement Foundation, Inc. (Fleet Landing). In 2015, Ari became a gubernatorial appointee to the board of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and currently serves as the Chair of that board. That year, Ari was also named as one of Northeast Florida’s Most Influential Women. In 2019, she was elected to the American Public Transportation Association’s Board of Directors. Ari also earned a seat on the Board of the Directors for the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization in 2020.
Ari graduated from Jacksonville University (1983) and the Florida State College of Law (1990), with Highest Honors. While at the Florida State College of Law, Ari was an Associate Editor on the Law Review as well as a member of the Order of the Coif. Ari is also an honors graduate from the Naval Legal Justice School, Newport, Rhode Island (1984). Ari previously spoke on the topics of “Doing Blue Plan Alliances: Tales from the Front Lines” at the 2006 40th Annual BCBSA Lawyers Conference and “Doing Plan Alliances: Lessons Learned” at the 2007 41th BCBSA Lawyers Conference. She has also presented on the topics of Women Veterans and the Multicultural US Armed Forces.
Petra Mollet, Vice President, Strategic and International Programs, American Public Transportation Association
Petra Mollet is Vice President of Strategic and International Programs for the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). She leads APTA’s strategic and business planning, coordinates the Association’s international outreach and supports the Transit Board Members Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Council, including implementing APTA’s Racial Equity Action Plan. She joined APTA in 2008 as Vice-President, Strategy and was Chief of Staff from 2012 to 2016.
In a transportation career spanning over three decades, she is driven by the potential of sustainable mobility to improve lives and transform communities. She is continuously inspired by the dedication of those who work in the field and is committed to applying her experience to amplify advances in public transportation, promoting equity and sustainability.
Before her work at APTA, Petra was director of corporate development and the corporate office at the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) based in Brussels, Belgium. She led UITP’s worldwide expansion and external relations and supported the UITP Sustainable Development Program’s launch in 2001. Previously, Petra was the Executive Director of POLIS, an association of European local and regional transportation authorities that collaborated on applying Intelligent Transportation Systems and mobility integration.
She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Foreign Affairs, and holds an Executive Master of Natural Resources from Virginia Tech.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi is the 52nd Speaker of the House of Representatives, having made history in 2007 when she was elected the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House. Now in her third term as Speaker, Pelosi made history again in January 2019 when she regained her position second-in-line to the presidency, the first person to do so in more than 60 years. As Speaker, Pelosi is fighting For The People, working to lower health care costs, increase workers’ pay through strong economic growth and rebuilding America, and clean up corruption to make Washington work for all.
For 33 years, Speaker Pelosi has represented San Francisco, California’s 12th District, in Congress. She has led House Democrats for 16 years and previously served as House Democratic Whip. In 2013, she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the American women’s rights movement.
Under the leadership of Pelosi, the 111th Congress was heralded as “one of the most productive Congresses in history” by Congressional scholar Norman Ornstein. President Barack Obama called Speaker Pelosi “an extraordinary leader for the American people,” and the Christian Science Monitor wrote: “…make no mistake: Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful woman in American politics and the most powerful House Speaker since Sam Rayburn a half-century ago.”
Working in partnership with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi led House passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in early 2009 to create and save millions of American jobs, provide relief for American families, and provide a tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans. With the House Democratic Caucus, Pelosi focuses on the need to create jobs in America and prevent them from being shipped overseas.
Speaker Pelosi was the architect of the landmark Affordable Care Act, which guaranteed protections for all Americans with pre-existing medical conditions, ended annual and lifetime limits on health coverage, and provided affordable health coverage for tens of millions more Americans while lowering health care costs over the long term.
In the 111th Congress, Speaker Pelosi also led the Congress in passing strong Wall Street reforms to rein in big banks and protect consumers and the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which expands educational opportunities and reforms the financial aid system to save billions of taxpayers’ dollars. Additional key legislation passed into law included the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to restore the ability of women and all workers to access our judicial system to fight pay discrimination; legislation to provide health care for 11 million American children; national service legislation; and hate crimes legislation. In late 2010, Pelosi led the Congress in passing child nutrition and food safety legislation as well as repealing the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
As Speaker, Pelosi has made the climate crisis her flagship issue, enacting comprehensive energy legislation in 2007 that raised vehicle fuel efficiency standards for the first time in 32 years and making a historic commitment to American homegrown biofuels. In 2009, under her leadership, the House passed the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act – a comprehensive bill to create clean energy jobs, combat the climate crisis, and transition America to a clean energy economy. The legislation was blocked by Republicans in the United States Senate but sent a strong signal to the world about the United States’ commitment to fighting the climate crisis.
A leader on the environment at home and abroad, Pelosi secured passage of the “Pelosi amendment” in 1989, now a global tool to assess the potential environmental impacts of development. In San Francisco, Pelosi was the architect of legislation to create the Presidio Trust and transform the former military post into an urban national park.
In continuing to push for accountability and transparency in government, under Speaker Pelosi, the House passed the toughest ethics reform legislation in the history of the Congress, including creating an independent ethics panel and increased accountability and transparency in House operations including earmark reforms. As Speaker, Pelosi led the fight to pass the DISCLOSE Act in the House, which fights a corporate takeover of U.S. elections and ensures additional disclosure; she continues to fight for this legislation today.
Additional key accomplishments signed into law under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi include: an increase in the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years; the largest college aid expansion since the GI bill; a new GI education bill for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars; and increased services for veterans, caregivers, and the Veterans Administration.
As House Democratic Leader, Pelosi wrested critical legislative victories out of the GOP majority. In the 114th Congress, she spearheaded a historic bipartisan agreement to strengthen Medicare, ending the cycle of expensive “Doc Fix” patches and transitioning away from a volume-based system toward one that rewards value, ensures the accuracy of payments and improves the quality of care. Following the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Leader Pelosi orchestrated the effort that secured the votes to uphold a possible Presidential veto of Republicans’ effort to disapprove the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Pelosi’s strength at the negotiating table has consistently delivered significant funding increases for key Democratic priorities. In the FY 2016 omnibus, Pelosi won the permanent authorization of the World Trade Center Health Program and a massive five-year extension of expiring wind and solar renewable energy tax credits. In the FY 2018 omnibus, Pelosi won significant increases in vital domestic investments, including a $3.2 billion increase in opioid epidemic funding, a $3 billion increase for NIH medical research, and the largest single-year funding increase for Child Care Development Block Grants in the initiative’s history.
In the face of the all-out-Republican onslaught against Americans’ health care, Leader Pelosi held House Democrats united through dozens of votes to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act – mobilizing a massive nationwide campaign to block House Republicans’ monstrous “Trumpcare” legislation. Under her leadership, House Democrats also unanimously opposed the GOP tax scam for the rich.
Pelosi comes from a strong family tradition of public service. Her late father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., served as Mayor of Baltimore for 12 years after representing the city for five terms in Congress. Her brother, Thomas D’Alesandro III, also served as Mayor of Baltimore. She graduated from Trinity College in Washington, DC. She and her husband, Paul Pelosi, a Francisco native, have five grown children and nine grandchildren.
Melissa Rolle-Scott, Transit Section Chief, Office of Safety & Security, Miami-Dade Department of Transportation & Public Works
Melissa Rolle-Scott is a U.S. Department of Transportation Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellow with 30 years of experience in the mass transportation (bus, rail and automated guideway) industry. She currently serves as the Transit Section Chief in the Office of Safety & Security for the Miami-Dade County (MDC) Department of Transportation & Public Works (DTPW). She is responsible for providing leadership in the planning and directing of Internal Audits. She is the department’s liaison for safety-related state and federal audits.
Ms. Rolle-Scott has provided leadership in several divisions of the Miami-Dade DTPW, which includes: Safety & Security: Transit Services Administration; Maintenance Control; Customer Service; and the Automated Fare Collection System. Before joining DTPW, she worked as an Industrial Engineer for Martin Marietta Denver Aerospace.
Ms. Rolle-Scott is very active in the transportation industry. She currently serves on the National Board of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO). She also serves on the COMTO Scholarship, CITY Internship and Industry Awards committees. Locally, she serves as an At-Large Member of the COMTO Miami Chapter Board. She has also served as a Transit Research Innovative Program Ambassador and several TCRP Research Panels. She is a 2002–2003 graduate of the Leadership American Public Transit Association (APTA) and serves on APTA Committees.
Ms. Rolle-Scott contributes to her community’s well-being in numerous ways. She is an MDC Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) mentor and has volunteered as a KAPOW teacher and SECME judge at various schools. She also serves on MDC’s Black Heritage Planning Committee, where she chairs the annual South Dade Gospel Fest. As President & CEO of the Mt. Calvary Community Development Center, she is responsible for providing leadership to govern such activities as Senior & Youth Computer Training, Youth Photography, and food/clothing distribution.
Kimberly Slaughter, CEO, SYSTRA USA
CEO, Kimberly Slaughter has been involved in the development of mobility solutions for over 30 years and has a wealth of experience in the transportation industry, working for planning, architecture/engineering consulting firms and public transportation providers. She is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin with a BA in Government-Pre-Law and an MSc in Community and Regional Planning.
An active leader in the transportation industry, Kim was appointed to head the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Subcommittee for the Mobility Restoration & Recovery Task Force. Kim has also served on the APTA Board of Directors and Business Members Board of Governors, Business Council of the African American Mayors Association, Women’s Transportation Seminar, Conference of Minority Transportation Officials and the March of Dimes. In 2019, she served on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s transportation transition team and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Dawn Tucker-Thomas, University Grants Manager, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, U.S. Department of Transportation
Dawn Tucker-Thomas currently serves as a University Grants Manager in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She seeks to ensure that surface transportation research grants, awarded to universities, promote advanced, innovative solutions and technologies that accelerate transportation technology and deployment. For a decade, she has sought to strengthen the capacity of Historically Black Colleges & Universities and minority-serving institutions participation in the department’s University Transportation Centers Program, a $75 million per annum competitive research grant program. She also has championed eliminating barriers, promoting opportunities for women and minorities, and supporting the department’s diversity, equity and inclusion goals as part of the program’s workforce development component. She recently worked in the Office of Public Engagement on a detailed assignment with the Transportation Secretary’s Senior Advisors focusing on coordinating transportation equity and related stakeholder engagements as part of a comprehensive strategy.
Ms. Tucker-Thomas has almost thirty years of experience in various transportation areas, from transportation planning, aviation policy and rulemaking, airport operations, air carrier management, aircraft-air traffic control integration research, transportation research and analysis and airport and air carrier compliance and enforcement.
In addition to her transportation career, Ms. Tucker-Thomas dedicates much of her time volunteering in her community. She currently serves on the Educational and Charitable Foundation’s Board of Directors and is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Lambda Kappa Omega Chapter. She actively participates in Alfred Street Baptist Church activities and was recently installed as an officer.
Ms. Tucker-Thomas received an undergraduate degree in Airway Science from Hampton University, a graduate degree in Transportation from Morgan State University, and a law degree from Concord Law School. She is a former African American Federal Executive Association Fellow and Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellow.
Beverly J. Watts, Director, Wayne County Department of Public of Services
Beverly is the Director of the Wayne County Department of Public of Services (DPS), the largest county road agency in the state of Michigan. Beverly began her career in Wayne County in 2003 as Assistant Division Director of the Parks Division of DPS, moving up to Director the following year and then appointed to Deputy Director of the entire Department in 2012. In 2016, Watts became Wayne County’s first female Director of DPS.
In addition to aligning the department’s mission and vision with the goals set forth by the County Executive, she is responsible for developing strategic plans for each of the department’s six divisions, totaling over 600 employees with an annual budget exceeding $300 million and total assets estimated at $1 billion.
In 2018, Wayne County DPS was awarded full accreditation by the American Public Works Association (APWA) for their improved processes and procedures, making them the first county in Michigan to receive this honor. In addition, Watts has implemented policies that emphasize equity, diversity, racial and gender equality, and inclusion. For example, Watts has built a diverse team of decision-makers for various departmental processes, including recruitment, divisional oversight, and procurement practices.
Watts is a proud native Detroiter and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Telecommunications from Michigan State University. She serves on the Board of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, which has transformed the Detroit Riverfront into a sought-after destination, keeping it “a beautiful, clean and safe gathering place for all.” She is a proud member of the COMTO Michigan Chapter. In 2019, Watts received the “Pioneer Award for Public Agency Executive of the Year” and sits on the COMTO Industry Awards Committee.
In addition, Watts serves as a member of the National Organization of Black County Officials, American Public Works Association, Wayne County Economic and Development Corporation, Wayne County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority Board and currently represents the county as an appointed member of the Wayne County Drainage Board, and most recently appointed to the Michigan Infrastructure Council.
Ms. Watts is a lifetime member of the Detroit Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and currently serves as President of the Harbor town One Condominium Association. Also, she was honored as a recipient of the Michigan Chronicle’s “Woman of Excellence” and “Who’s Who” awards. In 2019, Watts became an alumnus of the Harvard Kennedy School of Executive Education, graduating and earning certification in Strategies for Building and Leading Diverse Organizations.
Claire M. Williams, Executive Vice President, KDM Engineering
Claire M. Williams is the Executive Vice President of KDM Engineering, a Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (MBE/WBE/DBE) professional engineering firm focusing on power distribution design, gas distribution and telecommunications design. Recognized for her ability to identify opportunities and resolve problems before they become barriers, Claire combines leadership experience with keen listening and assessment skills, which help her manage diverse teams of professionals and meet business goals.
Claire is a graduate of Rutgers University (B.S.), The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (CMT) and Central Michigan University (MSA). She joined Environmental Design International (EDI), headquartered in Chicago, in 1996 and served as President & COO of EDI from 2015-2019. During that time, her leadership experience and talent for collaboration resulted in the largest contract ever awarded to a M/W/DBE firm by the Illinois Department of Transportation for Phase III engineering services on a segment of the Dan Ryan Expressway.
In a strategic career move, Claire left EDI in 2019 to join KDM Engineering as Executive Vice President and help drive its long-term business strategy to achieve its financial goals. Her focus on building teams—through intentional mentoring and person-centered coaching—consistently results in teams that go the extra mile for the sake of the whole.
A fierce supporter and advocate of women and minority-owned businesses, Claire offers her expert insight into diversity through her involvement with the Women in Transportation (WTS) Diversity Committee. She has served as a mentor in the WTS Greater Chicago Chapter Mentorship Program. Claire is also an active member of the American Association of Blacks in Energy and a former Director-at-Large on the Lambda Alpha International Ely Chapter Board of Directors. She is a former member of the Board of Directors and Secretary for the Forest Preserve Foundation, where she was Co-Chair of their annual fundraiser.
Michele Wong-Krause, Chair, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors
Michele Wong Krause, a Hispanic, Asian and Native Hawaiian attorney, presently serves as the Chair of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Board of Directors. As a staunch champion of public transit, Michele serves on the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Executive Committee and as the Secretary of the Transit Board Members (TBM) Committee. From her work on the Leadership APTA Committee to her work on the TBM Committee, she has brought her board room experience and enthusiasm for the transformative nature of public transit to APTA.
Michele is a trailblazer in both the transit and legal communities. She is the first Latina and the first Asian American to serve as DART Chair. Michele was the first Asian female to be elected to the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas; the first Asian attorney to be elected to represent Dallas on the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas, and the first Asian attorney to be appointed to the Board of Directors of the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation.
A former City of Dallas Associate Municipal Judge, currently in private law practice with the Wong Krause Law Firm in Dallas, Michele has had a long history of working to advance the interests and opportunities of the minority community and of bringing forward equity and implicit bias programs at conferences across the nation.
Vanessa E. Wyche, Director, NASA Johnson Space Center
Vanessa E. Wyche is the Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, home to America’s Astronaut Corps, Mission Control Center, International Space Station, Orion and Gateway programs, and more than 10,000 civil service and contractor employees. She is responsible for overseeing a broad range of human spaceflight activities, including the development and operation of human spacecraft, commercialization of low-Earth orbit and Johnson’s role in landing the first woman and first person of color on the surface of the Moon.
Wyche previously served as Deputy Director of NASA Johnson Space Center, which she has held since 2018. Other key leadership positions include: Assistant and Acting Deputy Director of Johnson; Director of the Exploration Integration and Science Directorate; Flight Manager of several missions of the retired Space Shuttle Program; Executive Officer in the Office of the NASA Administrator; and led other center-level technical and program organizations. Before joining NASA in 1989, Wyche worked for the Food and Drug Administration in Washington DC.
A native of South Carolina, Wyche earned a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and Master of Science in Bioengineering from Clemson University. In recognition of her contributions to the engineering profession, she was inducted into the Thomas Green Clemson Academy of Engineers and Scientists at Clemson University in 2019.
Wyche is a passionate promoter of science, technology, engineering and math and serves as a member of the Clemson University College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences Advisory Board, University of Houston’s C. T. Bauer College of Business Advisory Panel, Houston Exponential Board of Directors and is past Chair of the Space Center Houston Board of Directors. She is the recipient of two NASA Outstanding Leadership Medals, two NASA Achievement Medals and is a current International Women’s Forum Fellow.
Wyche is married to George Wyche Jr. Esq, and has one son, George Wyche III. Follow Wyche on Twitter at twitter.com/V_Wyche.