Here’s a look at five impactful individuals who shaped the industry and continue to pave the way.
On June 10, 2021, Nuria Fernandez became the first Afro-Latina to lead the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), a division of the United States Department of Transportation. Before joining the FTA, she served as the General Manager and CEO of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). She had an impressive tenure at the VTA, where she was responsible for 2,100 employees, created an incubated space to test new technologies and oversaw the completion of the first Bay Area Rapid Transit, a heavy rail service into Silicon Valley. With more than 35 years of experience in some of the most active transportation agencies in the country, she has made a name for herself as a trailblazer and a leader.
In 1993, Federico Peña became the first Hispanic American to hold the position of U.S. Secretary of Transportation and later went on to be elected as the Secretary of Energy. During his career in transportation, he advocated strongly for federal investments in highway and transit projects. Ultimately, Federico found success in law, politics and business and set a path for future minorities. He championed bilingual education, civil rights and equal opportunities and eventually went on to become the first Hispanic Mayor of Denver.
Victor Mendez created impressive initiatives while serving as a Federal Highway Administrator from 2009 to 2014. He directed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which revitalized the nation’s infrastructure, created tens of thousands of jobs and secured $26.6 billion for bridge and highway projects. With over 30 years of experience working in the transportation industry, Victor has helped make communities safer, less congested and economically stronger.
With a career that spans more than 25 years, Flora Castillo is the first Latina Chair of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) as well as the Vice President of Corporate Public Relations at AmeriHealth Mercy Family of Companies. She also served almost two decades as senior policymaker and member of the Board of Directors at the New Jersey Transit Corporation in 1999. Her passion for the transportation industry stems from depending on public transportation since her younger years in El Salvador as well as in the United States. Flora Castillo states, “I know firsthand the value of public transportation and how important it is to those who need it most.” Focused on the development of the next generation, she strives to encourage other Latinos to enter the transportation industry.
2022 marked 44 years in the transportation industry for Frank Alejandro. Most recently, he served as the Chief Operations Officer for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro). An East Los Angeles native, Frank started his career in transportation working as a bus operator. He went through several management positions in the Los Angeles area until he took on his leadership role at Metro. The third largest public transportation agency in the United States at the time, Metro staffed over 9,000 employees, and Frank oversaw six rail lines and 1,800 peak hour buses.