Metro Magazine

SEP-OCT 2014

Magazine serving the bus and rail transit & motorcoach operations since 1904

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74 < m ETRO m AGAZINE SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 Vicki Woolridge along, you only get a two-minute sound bite," Wooldridge says. "So, when elected ofcials are home in their district ofces, that is the time to talk. When they think trains, I want them to think SFRTA." One of Wooldridge's proudest accom- plishments to date is changing SFRTA from a regional organization to a trans- portation authority through legislation. "Tat was a big push, and now we over- see not just trains, but shuttle buses and more, ensuring the mobility of people," she says. "It's an ongoing challenge to en- sure that everybody understands what we're capable of doing." SFRTA is celebrating its 25th year in business with many new developments on the horizon. Projects include install- ing Wi-Fi on the trains within the next year, launching an upgraded website and mobile app with real-time information, and completing a $2 billion ground trans- portation hub at Miami International Airport. "Where the agency's heading is really exciting," says Wooldridge. "To me, it's a no-brainer to have good transportation available to folks who not only need it but want it." — Brittni Rubin Working in governmental affairs was an unexpected career path for Vicki Wooldridge, a natural-born artist and art school attendee. However, soon after deeming commercial art a feld too fckle to pursue professionally, she began look- ing for a job that could put food on the ta- ble and support what she calls a "bad shoe habit." Impressively, high heels are a sta- ple of Wooldridge's wardrobe. She found an administrative job for a university in central Florida. But govern- ment work still wasn't on her radar until a close friend, who worked for Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), made a suggestion. "She told me 'you're such a people per- son, you'd do great in my line of work,'" Wooldridge recounts. "On the job, I'm an extrovert — I'm very passionate about what I do." Two days later, she saw an opening at the local state senator's office and ap- plied. Wooldridge didn't get the job, but the office suggested she call Rep. Harry Goode, in Melbourne, Fla., who was in need of a house aide. "Goode said to me, 'I hear you know someone in Bill Nelson's office…if you're good enough for him, you're good enough for me,' and that was all it took," Wooldridge says. She went on to spend nine years as a house aide before transitioning to a lob- bying frm to work as a contract lobbyist. Everything she knew, she learned from experience. "When it comes to lobbying, I'm a frm believer there's no better education of the legislative process than your frst session," Wooldridge says. It was in this position that Wooldridge was frst exposed to the transportation in- dustry. Tri-Rail, of the South Florida Re- gional Transportation Authority (SFR- TA), was a client of her frm. "I developed a good idea of what state transportation looked like because I was placed as liaison between the train agen- cy and the frm," she says. "I attended all their board meetings." Her intimate knowledge of the organi- zation continued to grow, and in 2008, she received a phone call from Tri-Rail's exec- utive director asking if she'd be interested in coming on as staf. Historically, Tri-Rail had two separate state and federal afairs managers, but the decision was made to combine the roles, making Wooldridge the official government affairs manager of SFRTA. "At that point, I had about 14 years of state experience, but Washington was a welcomed challenge," Wooldridge said. "Executive Director Joe Giulietti, with over 40 years of experience at the feder- al level, taught me everything he knew." Wooldridge's biggest responsibility is ensuring the future of the agency through her legislative consulting team at the fed- eral, state and local levels. Tis includes not only substantive changes, but ap- propriations and the funding process as well. The smaller picture, according to Wooldridge, involves relationship build- ing and educating those, including elect- ed ofcials, who can really make a difer- ence for SFRTA's mission. "When a legislative session comes WOMEN IN TRANSPORTATION Wooldridge's biggest responsibility at SFRTA is ensuring the future of the agency through her legislative consulting team at the federal, state and local levels. Government Affairs Manager TITLE South Florida Regional Transportation Authority ORGANIZATION Pompano Beach, Fla. CITY

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