WeSalute Awards

HeroVet: Joseph H. Boardman, CEO of Amtrak

Joseph Boardman

Editor's Note: About to enter his tenth year as Amtrak CEO, Joseph H. Boardman also continues to serve as one of Veterans Advantage's first benefit partners (2001). To commemorate this milestone, Veterans Advantage is offering this flashback coverage of when it first honored him as "HeroVet" in 2005.

A recurring theme in our Post-9/11 world is the concern that we maintain the country’s economic and homeland security at the highest possible level. There are few areas that reflect this concern more than our nation’s transportation system. The executive charged not only with keeping our nation’s freight and passenger rail system safe, but also with helping to breathe new life into Amtrak, is Joseph Boardman, an Air Force veteran and long-time public servant.

Nominated by President George W. Bush on March 17, 2005 and confirmed by the United States Senate on April 28, 2005, Joe Boardman is the eleventh Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA). As Administrator, his responsibilities include managing comprehensive safety programs and regulatory initiatives, enforcement of FRA safety regulations, development and implementation of national freight and passenger rail policy, and oversight of diverse research and development activities in support of improved railroad safety.

"The safety of both freight and passenger rail operations in this country is my utmost concern," Boardman said upon taking the job in June of 2005. "I am also eager to start working with Secretary (of Transportation Leon) Mineta in the creation of an intercity passenger rail system that makes economic sense and meets the travel needs of its riders."

"I have no doubt… he will take the steps needed to improve and strengthen our nation’s rail system for the millions of commuters, businesses, and recreational travelers that depend upon America’s passenger and freight transportation network every day," said Governor George Pataki of New York, where Boardman served as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in the 1990s. And attracting bipartisan support, the Bush-appointee received support from two of the Senate’s leading Democrats: Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

But it was Boardman’s remarks on the future of Amtrak, which seems to have solidified such support. During his confirmation hearings before the Senate Commerce committee in April, he suggested there was an opportunity for Amtrak to survive the "zero-funding" threat by the Bush Administration over Amtrak’s future operations.

"If confirmed, I believe we have to work in collaboration. It will not be zero" (funding), Boardman said. "If we can reform and make the changes necessary to support rail transportation, that will not occur." His comments generated swift support from the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

After the hearing, Boardman said he thought President Bush’s proposal to eliminate the $1.2 billion Amtrak received last year had brought needed attention to Amtrak’s condition, saying that both Bush and Transportation Secretary Mineta "believe that this is generating ... a debate about the future."

Joe Boardman was born in 1948 in Rome, N.Y. He grew up in Taberg on the family farm, one of eight children. Following four years of enlisted military service, in the Air Force, which included a tour in Vietnam (1968-1969), he became the first of his immediate family to attend college, initially studying animal science, with an eye toward becoming a veterinarian like his grandfather and two uncles, or perhaps a diary farmer like his dad.

It took just one course in economics to convince him to shift majors. He paid for his own education--which also includes a master’s degree in business science--by driving a local bus route as well as tractor trailers. He even earned a private pilot’s license. "I’ve always had an interest in anything with a motor or wheels," says Boardman, who gained increasing interest in the rail systems as a young economics student at Cornell.

Most of his years since then included holding high level public service positions in the State of New York. Mr. Boardman served as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) since July 1997, and led a major transformation effort that enabled the agency to better respond to the challenges associated with an expanding global marketplace. Although his private sector experience includes owning his own transportation management company, he has served in the transportation industry for nearly thirty years with experience in city, county and State government.

Most recently, he was chairman of the Executive Committee of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and Chair of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) Standing Committee on Rail Transportation (SCORT). He was also named to the New York City Public Transit Hall of Fame.

In 1966, he volunteered for military service in the United States Air Force, serving in Vietnam in 1968-1969. Upon receiving an honorable discharge from the Air Force, he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Agriculture Economics from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, and a Master of Science Degree in Management Science from the State University of New York at Binghamton. He presently resides with his wife Joanne in Washington, D.C. His three grown children, Joe Jr., Emily, and Philip, all reside in Rome, New York.

With his continued service to the country after military service, we are proud to designate Joe Boardman a HeroVet.

ImageCredit: http://blog.amtrak.com/2013/03/meet-our-blog/boardman2/

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