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In memoriam: COMTO President and CEO Julie Cunningham

Yesterday, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) issued a statement regarding the June 24 death of Julie Cunningham, president and chief executive officer of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO).

“Julie singlehandedly increased the stature and influence of COMTO," said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy, adding that Cunningham's "strong will and passion heightened the profile and voice of minority professionals throughout the transportation industry.

Before being named to lead COMTO in 2001, Cunningham was a transit board member for the Laketran transit system in Ohio, and a regional representative on APTA’s Transit Board Members Committee’s Executive Council. She later served on APTA’s Diversity Council, and was a catalyst for APTA and COMTO working together to promote and support historically underutilized businesses.

"Julie often said her mission is for people of color to have a seat at the table," Melaniphy said. "Her legacy is the many individuals who have served, and are still serving, in influential roles in transportation, and the many young people she has mentored who will have seats at the table."

Cunningham also was instrumental in developing a formal and expanded partnership and collaboration between APTA and COMTO in such areas as strategic planning, policy forums and workforce development, he said.

"On a more personal note, Julie was a mentor to me when I became APTA president and CEO in 2011," Melaniphy said. "She helped me navigate my transition to the association world. She was an excellent sounding board, and I will miss her direct and honest advice. The APTA family offers its sympathies to Julie’s daughter and her family, and to the many members of COMTO. We celebrate Julie’s life and give thanks for her many accomplishments.”

WTS International officials are saddened by the loss of Cunningham, who they characterized as "a great leader" in the advancement of minorities in the transportation industry.

"She will truly be missed as an icon and forward-thinking strategist," WTS President and CEO Marcia Ferranto said in a statement.

Under Cunningham’s direction, COMTO became a recognized resource advocacy for transportation workforce diversity and inclusion, and for participation by "Historically Underutilized Businesses" in the transportation industry, WTS officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/25/2014