“The railroad is part of the city of Altoona. This is how Altoona came to existence. I take pride in being a railroader and I take pride in protecting, educating and teaching our community about the rail.”

Chief Jesse James was born and raised in the Chippewa Valley.  He is a 15-year-plus veteran of law enforcement and, in 2018, was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly, representing District 68. He started his career in April of 2001 with the Spring Valley Police Department as a part-time officer.  He also worked with the Elmwood Police Department and the Altoona Police Department.  In December of 2002 he was offered a full-time position with the Altoona Police Department.

He has been with the City of Altoona ever since and worked seven years as a night shift patrol officer.  He was the first officer in Eau Claire County to be offered a position on the the Eau Claire County SWAT team.  He became a Law Enforcement Standards and Board Firearms Instructor in November 2007.  In October of 2009 he was assigned to the position of Investigator.  Chief James led several high-profile investigations, some of which went to the federal level, where he has testified in front of a grand jury. Chief James was acting Police and Fire Chief from April 2011 until September 2011.  He maintained his position as an Investigator until October 2013 when he accepted the position of Police and Fire Chief.  He is a graduate of the Leadership in Police Organizations and First Line Supervisor programs.

He has also worked with staff to educate the community regarding the railroad traffic in the City of Altoona, including the creation of a city ordinance to address trespassing on the railroad.

“Freight trains take thousands of truckloads off of Connecticut’s congested roads and highways each year, benefiting drivers and our battered infrastructure. Plus, the nationwide rail network is not supported by taxpayers, but by the railroads themselves, through massive ongoing investments.”

Chris Bielik was elected to the Beacon Falls, CT Board of Selectmen in 2011 and he has served as First Selectman since 2013. In that time, he was elected by his peers to the Executive Board of the newly established Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments.

Bielik graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD with a B.S. in resource management. He served over 22 years on active duty in the Navy as a Naval Flight Officer, flying the P-3 Orion aircraft and attaining the rank of Commander (O-5). He earned an M.S. in management (public administration) from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA and retired from the Navy in 2004.

“At the Chamber, we know how vital it is for our local businesses to have efficient transportation options. Freight railroads stand out on this front because of their financial commitment to building and expanding the nationwide rail network, a stark contrast to our publicly funded roads and highways.”

Mike Miller has served as the President of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce since 2014. He has 40 years of media business experience, including having served as publisher of the Florence Morning News from 1999 through 2007.

In 2008, Miller left the Florence area to assume the position of president and publisher of the Winston-Salem Journal and the Piedmont Publishing Group in North Carolina. In 2012, he joined Jones Media Group in Tennessee where he was the publisher of the Athens Daily Post-Athenian and the Monroe County Advocate.

“Union Pacific, which runs through my district, and Oklahoma’s 18 other freight railroads are an economic powerhouse for our local and state economies. They not only connect local business and industry to the rest of the country and world, they are doing this with private dollars that continually improve efficiency, helping shippers’ bottom lines.”

First elected in 2008, Leslie Osborn is serving her fourth term as an Oklahoma State Representative where she represents the 47th District. She has served as the Assistant Majority Floor Leader and the Deputy Majority Whip in the Oklahoma House. She currently serves as the chair of the Natural Resources Appropriations Committee.

Osborn was appointed the Oklahoma State Director of the National Foundation for Women Legislators in 2016. She is a graduate of Oklahoma State University and resides in Mustang, where she was the business owner of Osborn Pick-Up Accessories for 22 years. She is the mother of two children.



“My position as Vice Chair of the Oklahoma House’s Transportation Committee has given me a favorable view of private freight rail companies, like BNSF in our region, that invest vast sums into our communities by way of infrastructure. Their spending, which comes at no expense to taxpayers, is crucial to the transportation network that moves our economy.”

Casey Murdock was elected to his first term in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2014 and currently serves as the Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee. He represents the 61st House district that covers the panhandle of Oklahoma.

Murdock grew up in western Oklahoma and he is an alumnus of Oklahoma Panhandle State University. Since graduating, he has farmed and ranched near his hometown while also serving as Farm Manager for New Mexico State University’s Clayton Livestock Research Center where he focused on feedyard management and livestock research. Murdock also previously served on the Felt School District board. He is married and a father of three.



“The private dollars that freight railroads pour into their infrastructure are a force multiplier for North Carolina’s economy—supporting the health of the rail infrastructure that connects businesses in our state and across the country to our ports and beyond. At the local level, the benefits of rail dollars are clear: more jobs and increased economic development.”

Paul Meyer began his service at the League as Chief Legislative Counsel in 2009 and later served as Director of governmental affairs. He was named Executive Director in 2013. Meyer brings more than 15 years of experience working on local government legislative and legal issues.

Before joining the League, Meyer spent more than a decade advocating for county governments as a lobbyist for the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners. He has also worked in private law practice and in the commercial insurance field. He is a graduate of Wake Forest University and earned a law degree from Campbell University School of Law.

“Freight railroads crisscross South Carolina, moving efficiently day in, day out to haul raw materials originating here, like lumber and paper, as well as finished products to the rest of the country and beyond. Rail is the connector that helps to power the local and national economies—and railroads are continually investing in the network that makes this possible.”

D. Paul Sommerville is the Chairman of the Beaufort County Council. He represents District 2 (MCAS/Beaufort/Lady’s Island/Fripp Island). Sommerville’s background is in labor relations, where he is a management consultant.

Sommerville is a graduate of Duke University and a veteran of the U.S. Army. A Beaufort native, he is married with two daughters.


“Emerging export markets around the globe are providing tremendous opportunity for North Dakota’s economy. Rail is the vital and irreplaceable economic multiplier for our farmers and energy producers to maximize the results of their hard work and innovation.”

Steven Bakken is the Business Development Director for Larsen Engineering, which provides bridge management, construction management, engineering, design, planning and commissioning work to the railroad industry. Larsen has 12 locations in 10 states across the country.

Bakken also has more than 35 years of broadcast and media experience. He was formerly the host of several regional talk radio shows, including “Energy Matters” and “What’s On Your Mind” based out of KFYR 550 in Bismarck, ND and various affiliates. These programs afforded Bakken access to all levels of government, business, associations and industry executives on state, federal and international platforms in the energy industry as well as agriculture and private business.

“The freight rail network is a crucial part of our region’s transportation system—one that keeps Virginia’s ports connected to manufacturers and businesses across the country. The private dollars that railroads spend to enhance efficiency and safety on their network in turn enhance efficiency across all modes, including for our ports.”

John F. Reinhart has served as the CEO and Executive Director of the Virginia Port Authority (VPA), which markets as The Port of Virginia – the fifth largest port in America – since 2014. He is responsible for the broad programmatic areas of business development and growth, strategic marketing, finance, and operations of Virginia’s marine terminal facilities – Virginia International Gateway, Newport News Marine Terminal, Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Richmond Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port.

Prior to joining the VPA, Reinhart served as CEO of Maersk Line, Limited since 2000 and president and CEO since 2004. He also previously worked at Universal Maritime Services (UMS) as general manager and president. Reinhart received a B.A. in general studies and political science from Ohio University and completed the Executive M.B.A. program at the University of Michigan.

“The economic impact when freight railroads invest in their network reverberates across America and in cities like St. Joseph. As the home to Herzog, a rail supplier than employs hundreds in our community, our city sees the real benefits of the private dollars that go into rail infrastructure, from direct jobs to a more efficient freight network for our businesses.”

Bill Falkner was elected to the mayoral position in April 2010 and re-elected in April 2014. He is a second generation St. Joseph business leader, having taken over his family’s plumbing business. Falkner’s hands-on life and business experience brings a perspective to issues that begins and ends with consideration for common sense and hard work on the same page as political correctness.

Falkner has earned a reputation for community and educational support of city improvements and he has devoted years of time and support toward improving the opportunities for athletic, educational and social development of the students and residents of St. Joseph.