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COMTO Webinar: Celebrate Women’s History Month–Women Leaders in Transportation–Breaking Barriers and Making Lasting Change
March 11, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Join us as we celebrate Women’s History Month with our distinguished panel of women CEOs and executives. This panel discussion will highlight:
- The accomplishments of women executives in transportation
- What can be done to ensure the success of women in the industry
- Unique challenges that women of color face in the industry and how to overcome them
- Personal career journeys and advice
Carmen García relaunched her business, ABRAC, LLC (A Business Relations Advisory Company) in December 2020 originally established in 1995. The mission of ABRAC is the advocate for minority businesses in building their capacity in the transportation industry. ABRAC brings over 20 years of experience in diversity & inclusion, public and community relations and governmental affairs.
García held the position of Assistant Vice President, Office of Diversity for Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) for 12 years responsible for DART’s Outreach Programs by directing, coordinating and administering the agency’s outreach program as it relates to minority contracts and D/MWBE vendors. She maintains programs relative to the needs of the community. She develops and maintains external strategic partnerships and serves as a liaison to major chambers representing minorities, women and other groups whose goals include the development of economic opportunities for minorities and women.
The Houston native graduated from Dallas Baptist University with a degree in public administration. García began her career in governmental affairs with ARCO and later directed programs and special projects in the offices of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts and the Texas Secretary of State in Austin. She returned to Dallas to manage former Texas Secretary of State Ron Kirk’s campaign for a successful bid for Dallas Mayor. After the election, ABRAC Consulting was formed specializing in marketing, public relations and event management.
García currently serves on the COMTO National Board; COMTO North Texas Chapter, Past President; Latinos in Transit Board, Dallas County Small Business Enterprise (SBE) Advisory Council Co-Chair, Greater Dallas Planning Council, Past President; and Past Chair of DART’s Women in Leadership and Executive Women’s Roundtable.
García remains actively engaged in her community and on a national level. Garcia was recently awarded the “Luna Award” by the Regional Hispanic Contractors Association; “Woman of the Year” by Women in Transportation Seminars (WTS); ”Top 10 Hispanic Leader” by the National Diversity Council; “2010 Minority Business Leader” by the Dallas Business Journal; “La Cima” recipient of the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber, and the Girl’s Inc., “She Knows Where She’s Going” award. Garcia serves many local, state and national organizations.
India L. Birdsong serves as Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA). She joined RTA in September 2019 and brings nearly 15 years’ experience working in positions of increasing responsibility in the public transit industry. Birdsong began her career in 2006 when she joined the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), where she served in planning, instruction, control center, operations, and finally as Senior Manager of the central region for Bus Supervision and Instruction. In 2016, she was appointed Chief Operating Officer of WeGo Public Transit in Nashville, where she served until coming to Cleveland.
At RTA, Birdsong oversees more than 2,300 employees at the largest transit system in Ohio, which provides more than 35 million annual rides to customers using the bus, rail, paratransit, trolley and bus rapid transit system across the county’s 457 square miles. Responsible for managing the Authority’s
$292 million operating budget, Birdsong is committed to transparent leadership, management accountability and sound financial oversight.
Birdsong is providing strategic leadership to advance RTA’s initiatives at a critical time for the organization. Paramount issues include replacing its aging rail fleet and securing additional and sustainable funding. Birdsong is leading the organization toward innovative solutions to significantly increase RTA’s customer base, improve service frequency and coverage, and expand RTA’s role in contributing to the economic development of the region.
Birdsong is an active member in several industry and community organizations, including the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and Transit Cooperative Research Program. She is an active board member for the United Way of Greater Cleveland, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance (DCIC), the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), the American Public Transportation Foundation (APTF), the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, and the Transportation Learning Center. Proficient in Spanish, Birdsong earned her Master’s in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago and her Bachelor of Arts from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Inez Evans was selected as IndyGo’s President and CEO in summer 2019. Evans began her transit career as a Customer Service Call Center Representative in the early 90’s and most recently served as a Chief Operating Officer for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) where she was responsible for leading 1,600 employees, maintaining nearly 700 vehicles and ensuring exceptional customer service for the VTA’s 43 million customers.
Evans has held positions of increasing scope and responsibility with Austin-based Star Tran, San Jose-based Veolia Transportation and MV Transportation in Fairfield, California before becoming Director of Transportation for the Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transportation Authority (MARTA) and then Chief Operations Officer for the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA).
She has diligently focused on operational efficiencies and building programs that support public transit employees’ growth and development. She has led several successful transportation initiatives across the country, including installation of bus rapid transit service (BRT) and master planning for 100% fleet electrification. Evans has an MBA in Management from Western International University and a Bachelor of Science in Business Management from the University of Phoenix.
Evans is a mother of four boys and a native of Texas. In her free time, she enjoys singing and gardening. Evans career has been rooted in her ability to build and nurture relationships, bring communities together and affect organizational change. With more than 25 years of experience, Evans leadership has always been focused on finding ways to build relationships and create a thriving environment for all those she serves
As Lane Transit District’s General Manager, Aurora (A.J.) Jackson manages an operating and capital budget of over $130 million dollars and provides oversight of 325 transit professionals that transport 10 million passenger boardings annually. Ms. Jackson’s work at Lane Transit District has been focused on developing a system approach to transit. Her accomplishments include completion of a third bus rapid transit project, secured funding for 30 electric buses within three years, and implementation of new technology projects to improve the customer experience such as a touchless fare system.
Through the COVID-19 pandemic and a catastrophic fire season, Ms. Jackson’s partnerships with local officials, the business community and union leadership has earned her agency the Pillar of the Community award. Ms. Jackson has also been selected as one of the Portland Business Journal’s 2021 Women of Influence award winners. She serves Lane County as a board member for the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Lane County, and Cornerstones Community Housing. Ms. Jackson’s work statewide includes serving as a bord member for the Oregon Transportation Association and the Oregon Global Warming Commission. Nationally, she supports transit by serving on the board of The Bus Coalition. Her professional associations include membership in the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the American Leadership Forum of Oregon, Latinos In Transit, the Zero Emissions Bus Resource Alliance, and the Twin Rivers Springfield Rotary Club.
Debra A. Johnson is a person in the people business, a transit executive guided by the knowledge that her decision-making has direct bearing on the public’s ability to make connections that benefit their lives. Her public transportation journey began as a child in Fresno, California, and encompasses more than a quarter-century of leadership experience honed at some of the largest transit agencies in the United States, in the San Francisco Bay Area, Washington, D.C., and Southern California. Johnson was selected as General Manager and CEO of RTD by the agency’s Board of Directors on Aug. 25, 2020. She carries top responsibility for RTD’s budget, capital projects and service delivery, which include bus, light rail and commuter rail options across the Denver metro region. Johnson joined RTD from Long Beach Transit, where she served as Deputy CEO of the Southern California agency from May 2014 to October 2020. Prior to that, Johnson held executive positions at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). She moved into public sector service after beginning her transportation career in the private sector in the Bay Area. Johnson holds a master of arts degree in public administration from California State University Hayward (now CSU East Bay), and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations from the University of California Davis. She is a proud alumna of civic leadership programs in San Francisco and Long Beach, as well as the Eno Center for Transportation Executive Development Program.
Stephanie Wiggins was named chief executive officer of Metrolink by a unanimous vote of the board of directors in December 2018. Wiggins assumed leadership in January 2019 and leads the 287-employee strong commuter railroad with a budget of $793 million. A human-centered leader, Wiggins directs an agency that operates a commuter rail network on seven lines across a six-county, 538 route-mile system. Wiggins has held high-level positions at three of the five-member agencies that comprise Metrolink and is well-known as customer -focused who pursues fearless solutions from a regional perspective. Wiggins earned a Master of Business Administration from the USC Marshall School of Business in 2007. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration from Whittier College in 1992. Wiggins is the founding president of the Inland Empire Chapter of Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS). She is the recipient of many awards including the League of Railway Women’s 2020 Woman of the Year Award and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials 2018 Women Who Move the Nation Award. In support of her community, she is a Member of the Whittier College Board of Trustees, and serves on the Boards of the Los Angeles Chapter of Friends of the Children, the LA Division of the American Heart Association, the American Public Transportation Foundation, the Los Angeles Speech & Language Therapy Center, and an Advisory Board Member for the UCLA Lewis Center.