Jim Mathews - President & CEO
Jim Mathews brings 30 years of publishing and executive leadership experience in the transportation sector to his position as President and CEO of NARP. Before joining NARP, Mathews was Executive Editor of the Aviation Week Intelligence Network. During his 26-year tenure at Aviation Week, he cultivated the company’s digital strategy and led teams that twice won national awards for best news website.
Mathews served on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee for six years, including two years leading the ACAC as chairman. He is 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.
At NARP, Mathews has been leading a reinvigorated advocacy and legislative effort which has notched several wins in 2015: fending off six separate House attacks on Amtrak, taking a meaningful role alongside Senate staff in shaping the Senate's 2015 rail authorization and getting the rail bill included for the first time in 40 years in an overall surface transportation bill. Mathews spent the year traveling through more than a dozen states, building a coalition of significant grassroots support from mayors, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) and local officials for investment in the Southwest Chief, new service east of New Orleans and critical Northeast Corridor infrastructure projects.
In addition to managing NARP, Mathews sits as a voting member of the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) and on the FRA's Hazardous Materials Working Group, and actively represents NARP as a member of the OneRail coalition of freight and passenger stakeholders in Washington, DC.
A former firefighter/paramedic, Mathews also continues to volunteer as a Squadron Commander and Search-and-Rescue Aircrew Member for the Civil Air Patrol in Virginia and a Water-Quality Monitor for the Citizen Science Institute in Ithaca, New York. Mathews is a native of Syracuse, New York.
Sean Jeans-Gail - Vice President of Policy
Sean Jeans-Gail 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.
Betsy Nelson - Southeast Field Coordinator
Betsy is the Field Coordinator for the Southern Region of RPA. Originally hired in August 2016 as the Director of Resource Development, Betsy has transitioned into a position where her work in transportation policy and her love of the rural south can be fully realized.
Betsy was a reluctant railfan spouse until meeting her mentors, the late Hon. Gil Carmichael and the Hon. John Robert Smith, who shared their stories and experiences of the rebirth of downtown Meridian, MS after the reconstruction of the Amtrak station in downtown Meridian. After moving to Biloxi and 2010, she began attending Southern Rail Commission meetings, attending rail summits, and learning about the links between passenger rail and economic development. In 2014 she began graduate studies at Texas A&M with a Zachry School of Engineering Fellowship and graduated in 2015 with a Masters in Civil Engineering/Transportation Policy with an emphasis in multimodal planning. She has now lived in a Town Without A Train for eight years but is working desperately to change that – in Biloxi, Montgomery, and across the rural and greater Gulf Coast.
Betsy currently lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband, Paul, who is on the Council, and their son, Matthew. They also have a daughter, Lacy, who lives in Seattle.
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.