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Rail News: Passenger Rail
Rising Stars 2019: Jessica Mefford-Miller
Jessica Mefford-Miller, 38
Metro Transit-St. Louis
Nominator’s quote: “She is tasked for developing and implementing operational and capital programs of $339 million and $483 million, respectively, partnering with regional stakeholders, and successfully developing and managing local and federally funded projects that enhance and expand transit service across the St. Louis region. Ms. Mefford-Miller is the first woman to serve as St. Louis Metro’s executive director.” — Mokhtee Ahmad, Federal Transit Administration
Why did you pursue a career in the rail industry?
Public transit, particularly rail systems, is a fantastic conduit between people and places. I am drawn to rail-transit operations because I enjoy the complexity of operating a multimodal transit system in a fast-paced environment.
Describe your education after high school.
My academic training is in geography. I hold bachelor's and master’s degrees and am a doctorate degree candidate in my field. After obtaining my undergraduate degree in my native Illinois, I attended graduate programs in Texas and Ohio while working in my field.
I have always worked at the nexus of the built and human environments. I am a systems person with a desire to impact people and communities. Geography is a holistic discipline in which I’ve developed technical skills in geospatial and quantitative analysis that lend themselves to managing complicated systems like the large urban transit system I lead today.
Describe how you are making a difference in the rail industry.
I bring a decidedly human focus to transit system design and operations. From the decisions my team and I make each day, to how we communicate about our service, we are totally focused on the experience of the customer.
What is an interesting, unusual or little known fact about you?
When I am not engaged with my team running a large urban transit system, I keep busy raising my three young daughters.
What was your very first job?
My first professional job was as a geographic information systems specialist at Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park in Johnson City, Texas. The mission of the National Park Service resonates with me still today — I approach my job with a passion for service and stewardship.
What is your philosophy toward life and your career?
I love seeing the impact of my team’s work on people and communities, it keeps me engaged each day. I love my career, and on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, I strive to create harmony between my work and personal life.
What is your advice to new railroaders who want to advance their careers?
Create diverse networks of colleagues within your field. It’s helpful to have an array of perspectives from people who are at different stages in their career, and work in different markets or subject areas.
What will be the biggest trend to affect railroading over the next decade?
One of the biggest trends that may impact light rail is energy storage. The way we draw and store energy in light-rail systems impacts how and where we build passenger-rail systems, and onboard storage systems present opportunities for constructing light rail without catenary wires and wayside substations.
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