Jim Mathews - President & CEO
Jim Mathews is President & CEO of the Rail Passengers Association in Washington, DC, a nationwide 501c3 nonprofit transportation advocacy group. In 2016 then-Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appointed Mathews to a two- year term on the National Advisory Committee on Travel & Tourism Infrastructure, created by the 2015 surface transportation bill, and was re-appointed in May 2018. He also participates in Federal Railroad Administration regional plan study groups and is a voting member of the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee and the RSAC Hazardous Materials Working Group.
A lifelong train traveler with a deep-rooted vision for a robust national passenger train network within the U.S., Mathews believes rail can be an economic engine in the communities it serves, a potentially transformative mode in an ever-changing transportation landscape and the most environmentally responsible way to meet the transportation challenges of the 21st century. As a volunteer, Mathews served on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee for six years, including two years leading the ACAC as chairman.
At Rail Passengers, formerly known as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, Mathews has been leading a reinvigorated advocacy and legislative effort which has notched several wins in since 2015. These include fending off six separate House attacks on Amtrak, taking a meaningful role in shaping the Senate's 2015 rail authorization, leading a grassroots effort in 2016 to repel White House attacks on Amtrak’s long-distance network and introducing 26 million Americans in 2018 to the breadth of rail travel through the innovative Summer by Rail internship program.
He was recruited to the CEO role in 2014 after a 26-year career at Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, where he began as a reporter covering naval aviation and aircraft engines, rising through progressively more responsible editorial management positions to become Executive Editor. At Aviation Week, Mathews oversaw the explosive growth of Aviation Week’s online properties and its data and forecasting business, recruiting and leading a news team which won the 2006 and 2010 Neal Awards for best business news website and taking part in an acquisition team that brought a forecasting business into Aviation Week’s orbit. He was also Editor-in-Chief of Aviation Daily, the airline industry business daily. His career took him to 129 cities in 44 countries, as well as affording opportunities to fly 40 separate aircraft types ranging from high-performance military aircraft to experimental and transport-category prototypes.
Mathews was educated at the School of Visual Arts in New York and the State University of New York, as well as completing the Pre-hospital Emergency Medicine program at The George Washington University under the auspices of Fairfax County (Va.) Fire & Rescue, where he was a firefighter/medic for 13 years. Other volunteer experience includes search-and-rescue and disaster relief serving in a command role in the Civil Air Patrol (the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary), water-quality monitoring for the Citizen Science Institute and a seat on the Prince William County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). He is currently pursuing studies in International Relations and Government at Harvard University.
Sean Jeans-Gail - Vice President of Policy
Sean Jeans-Gail (sjeansgail[@]narprail.org) works as Vice President of Policy + Government Affairs for Rail Passengers Association. He joined the association in 2008 as Director of Communications. Previously, he served in the office of Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, then-chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
Jeans-Gail entered the transportation sector as a field director on a ballot measure campaign that successfully closed loopholes in Oregon’s land use-laws—laws originally enacted by renowned conservationist Governor Tom McCall. He has worked in the industry for over eight years, directing national grassroots advocacy campaigns and serving as a spokesman for transit and passenger rail. In addition to overseeing federal policy, Jeans-Gail is in charge of RPA’s rapidly expanding field organizing team, which supports passenger-centric legislation and voter initiatives at the state and municipal level.
A native of Portland, Oregon, he holds a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Oregon, where he was on the Dean’s list and a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.
Bruce B. Becker - Vice President of Operations
Bruce has been a long-time NARP member and served as a Board Vice-Chairperson, before assuming his current NARP staff position in May 2015.
Bruce's interest in passenger rail and public transportation policy extends back to his formative years. His father, Bill, was a civil engineer for the New York Central System, Penn Central and Conrail, where he served his entire 39-year railroad career on the Mohawk Division between Albany and Syracuse, NY. Bruce's first train ride was at 3 months old; his solo ride was at age 5 and his first cab ride came on the NYC's Empire State Express at age 6! Since this time, Bruce has traveled extensively by rail across the US, Canada and abroad. He served as the volunteer President of the Empire State Passengers Association for 15 years concluding in 2016.
Bruce has worked in the Hospitality Industry his entire career, having served increasingly responsible management roles with restaurants, national hotel chains and numerous private country clubs. Bruce has a B.S. in Business Administration from Bryant University, Smithfield, RI.
Born in Utica, NY, Bruce now resides in beautiful Buffalo, NY with his wife Cindy and their two cats. Besides railroading, Bruce enjoys classical music, reading and cooking.
James Abram "Abe" Zumwalt - Director of Policy Research
A native of Seattle, WA, Abe is NARP's Director of Policy Research. He received a B.A. degrees in Economics and in French from Knox College (Galesburg IL) in 2011. While attending Knox, he was an intern with the Galesburg Regional Economic Development Association, in the fall of 2009. He also studied abroad in Besancon, France (January-June 2010) and served on the Student Senate and—alongside college president Roger Taylor—on the school’s Sustainability Committee.
His professional work since graduating has been as a wine salesman, and as a Tour Guide in Seattle’s Underground. He has a strong knowledge of railroading. A major paper he wrote at Knox concerned the economic history of transportation infrastructure in the 20th century, with a view to making “more accessible the epic socio-political struggle that played out between road and rail,” which caught the interest of BNSF officials and culminated with dinner aboard the BNSF business train. He was awarded grants to attend the 2010 and 2011 Railvolution conferences. He was an active member of both All Aboard Washington and NARP before joining as a staff member.
Ultimately Abe would like to find himself "at the interchange between railway operations, and property development."
Carolyn Cokley - Director - Customer Advisory Committee Services
As the Director - Customer Advisory Committee Services Carolyn will oversee the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee (ACAC), which was created in 1997 as a group of volunteers to help Amtrak understand and meet the needs of its riders throughout the country. For the past two decades, members of ACAC have been providing new and innovative ideas for how Amtrak can assist seniors and people with mobility issues, how to improve food options, and even proposed the idea of the Quiet Car, which has been a dramatic success. Carolyn will also be working to develop similar Advisory Committees for other rail transit agencies across the country.
Carolyn's most recent position has been as a federal contractor with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she provided administrator and program management support in the Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer. Previously, she worked for Amtrak as an Employee Engagement and Recognition Programs manager. During her tenure with Amtrak, Carolyn's responsibilities included managing the annual Employee Appreciation Day events, the Employee Service Awards program and the Educational Assistance Program. For more than a decade, Cokley also chaired the 30-person employee selection committee for Amtrak’s Presidents Service & Safety Awards (PSSA) program and managed the planning and execution of the annual PSSA event.
Carolyn lives in nearby Maryland and she is an accomplished photographer and artist.
Joseph Aiello - Northeast Field Coordinator
Joseph is the Northeast Field Coordinator for the Rail Passengers Association. He was hired in January 2018 after serving on the RPA Council as a representative from Massachusetts since the Fall of 2016.
He has always been a supporter of public transportation but got involved as a true advocate under the mentorship of former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Under the Governor's leadership, Joseph became a leading voice for the North-South Rail Link joining the Dukakis-led NSRL Working Group as an outreach coordinator. He helped create a series of successful "town halls" for the Rail Link and has spoken out for a number of infrastructure and service projects around the Commonwealth. He has also testified before the MA Joint Committee on Transportation on behalf of the Boston to Springfield rail plan.
Joseph is a proud Chicago south-sider who now lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife Allison. He holds an MPA from Northeastern University with a focus on public policy.
Samantha Brown - Office Manager
Samantha is a native Washingtonian and a lifetime Washington Metro commuter. She attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts' music program, with a concentration in voice. She attended the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford ('03), and received her Bachelor of Music. She is thrilled to start at NARP, bolstering her professional career in customer service after a decade spent in the banking industry.