Jim Mathews - President + CEO
Jim Mathews is President & CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, a nationwide 501c3 nonprofit representing some 40 million American rail travelers, advocates and citizens across the U.S. who are working for better, safer, and more widely available transit and intercity rail choices. In this role, Mathews leads a professional staff with responsibility for strategy-setting, innovation, policy formation, legislative strategy, and business operations.
Mathews serves, or has served, on six U.S. Federal government advisory panels, and has testified or presented briefs before Congressional committees, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and the U.S. Surface Transportation Board. Current appointments include the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee, the Passenger Rail Working Group, the Hazardous Materials Working Group, and a working group advancing a Confidential Close Call Reporting System for train crews, as well as a committee advising the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), working to resolve bottlenecks in the U.S. surface-transportation network that are slowing down the supply of vital medical equipment (masks, respirators, needles, sharps boxes, personal-protective equipment, etc.).
Mathews served for four years on the U.S. Dept. of Transportation's National Advisory Committee on Travel & Tourism Infrastructure, or NACTTI, appointed in 2016 by President Obama's DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx and re-appointed during the Trump Administration by DOT Secretary Elaine Chao. Mathews was the principal drafter of the NACTTI final report for Congress and DOT in 2020.
Mathews joined the Association in 2014 after a 26-year career at Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, where he rose to Executive Editor. There, Mathews wrote more than 17,000 articles, travelled to 114 cities in 38 countries and flew more than 40 distinct aircraft types, including the F-16, the L-39, the IA.63 Pampa, the C-17 cargo aircraft, Airbus A319, A320 and A380, and Boeing 737 and 777.
A lifelong train traveler with a deep-rooted vision for a robust national passenger train network within the U.S., Mathews believes in the transformative power of passenger rail as an economic engine in the communities it serves. By mobilizing a grassroots network of rail advocates, he works to improve and expand conventional intercity and regional passenger train services, support higher speed rail initiatives, increase connectivity among all forms of transportation and ensure safety for our country's trains and passengers. All of this makes communities safer, more accessible, and more productive, improving the lives of everyone who lives, works, and plays in towns all across America.
As a volunteer before joining the Association, Mathews served on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee for six years, including two years leading the ACAC as chairman.
Mathews holds a bachelor’s degree in Government from Harvard, where he also completed a Legal Studies minor. He also completed the Emergency Pre-hospital Medicine program at George Washington University, and holds professional certifications in prehospital medicine and fire suppression earned as a firefighter/medic for 13 years in Fairfax County, Va. He volunteers as a search-and-rescue aviator with Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary.
Sean Jeans-Gail - Vice President of Policy + Government Affairs
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.
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 a decade, 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 Rail Passengers Association’s 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. He also served on Capitol Hill as a Congressional Intern.
Jonsie Stone - Chief of Staff
Jonsie has been building partnerships benefiting non-profits for more than twenty-five years. She has been responsible for relationships for organizations such as the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the Armed Services YMCA and NACHA. In her role as Chief of Staff, Jonsie focuses on the daily operation of Rail Passengers. She works across the Association and with external vendors to prioritize and strategize the needs of the staff and implement the mission. Jonsie is a frequent rail passenger, taking many trips on the Virginia Railway Express, Metro and Amtrak for business and pleasure. A born and bred Virginian, Jonsie lives with her husband, 2 sons, 3 beagles and a cat in Bristow, VA.
Jeanne Lawrie - Director of Resource Development
With over 20 years working in non-profits, Jeanne is responsible for our fundraising efforts. She is mission driven and loves connecting a donor’s passion to the mission of the organization. Whether a donor wants to fund a specific project or contribute to a larger cause, Jeanne’s goal is to make sure the donor is at the center of her work to help advance our mission. She received her B.A. in Speech Communication from Metropolitan State University in Minnesota. Jeanne spent 20 years working with the Boy Scouts of America in 5 different councils from Minnesota to Ohio and has served as the Director of Annual Fund for a small private college and the Director of Development for another small national nonprofit. She loves spending time with her son, her friends, and her dogs while enjoying life in sunny, central Florida.
Joseph Aiello - Director of Community Engagement & Organizing
Minneapolis transplant (by way of Boston) hailing from the Southside of Chicago, son of a Teamster, grandson of a Senator, Joe works tirelessly to assure the safety and security of urban commuters and the future of high speed rail. From his time as an Executive Board Member of East Cambridge Planning Team, to acquiring his MPA - Public Administration at Northeastern University under former MA Governor Michael Dukakis, Joe has been dedicated to the betterment of his community at large and pursues every opportunity to advocate for commuters. Through his current tenure as Organizing Director for the Association and as former Community Outreach Liaison for the North-South Rail Link, Joe is networking, coalition building, and campaigning for better transportation connectivity. He has won numerous advances for the field at large.
M. Ned Butler - Communications Manager
Grassroots Advocate and Small Town enthusiast, Ned spent the summer of 2019 visiting over 25 towns in 50 days advocating for long-distance public passenger rail and rural transit accessibility via Amtrak. This trip was documented via blog and social media storytelling as “Summer By Rail”, reaching audiences across the United States and launching their career from local to national recognition. Through the pandemic, Ned helped write policy for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. They have also volunteered with small community outreach teams and crisis intervention groups to provide support for those impacted by covid-19.
Ned has studied Media Production at Bluegrass College, Culinary Arts at Escoffier, and Project Management at College of San Mateo. From piloting art and music showcases in historic venues, to opening multiple restaurants, and facilitating national conferences, they possess a strategically focused skillset executed with creative intentionality.
"The Rail Passenger Association's recognition of the essential work done by SMART-TD members aboard Amtrak during this difficult period is appreciated. The Golden Spike Award serves as a testament to the compassion and dedication our conductors, assistant conductors and other workers exhibit constantly through times both ordinary and extraordinary."
Jeremy Ferguson, SMART-TD President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.