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Board of Directors

RTC Board Members joined Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and others at the U.S. Capitol to reveal the Great American Rail-Trail preferred route. | Photo courtesy RTC

The RTC Board of Directors comprises at least five but not more than 21 members, who are responsible for the legal and fiduciary operations of the organization. The full board meets three times per year, and committees meet as needed to prepare recommendations for full board approval.

Our board members are leaders and visionaries in their various fields who help guide RTC as we work toward creating a nationwide network of trails—and more bikeable, walkable communities in the United States.


Jon Cofsky | Photo courtesy Jon Cofsky

Jon Cofsky


Jon Cofsky is the co-founder & creative director of Whitepenny, a brand and digital strategy firm in Haddonfield, New Jersey. As co-founder, Jon has helped grow the business over its 18-year history and its roster of local, national and global clients. As creative director, Jon helps determine the vision and direction of each client, driving the creation of the communication strategy and assets.

Jon is active with both local and national nonprofits, including Camden Fireworks (where he holds studio space), and he sits on the boards of the Markeim Arts Center (Chair), Chamber of Commerce of Southern New Jersey, Executive Leaders for Advisory Boards and Haddonfield Youth Basketball Association. At Whitepenny, Jon helped co-create the Seasons of Giving campaign, a pro-bono initiative where the company supports one nonprofit per season with their branding needs.

Jon lives in Haddonfield, New Jersey, with his wife Abbey and their three boys, Will, Sam and Jake, and is a proud alumnus of Boston College.

Edward Chang | Photo courtesy Edward Chang

Edward Chang

Vice Chair

Edward W. Chang joins the RTC board while serving concurrently as chair of the board of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (Bicycle Coalition). The Bicycle Coalition is a founding partner of the Circuit Trails, an RTC TrailNation™ project and one of the largest multiuse trail networks in America.

Chang volunteers with the Bicycle Coalition’s Youth Cycling program, which works with youth ages 12–18 across Philadelphia in building healthy habits, leadership and independence through the sport of cycling. Chang is also an IRONMAN Triathlete and a cycling enthusiast.

During the day, he is Chief Operating Officer of Varlo Sports, a premier apparel brand for triathletes and multisport athletes.  Prior to Varlo, Ed was a partner at an Am Law 100 firm with over 20 years’ experience in the legal industry.

Doug Monieson | Photo courtesy Doug Monieson

Doug Monieson


Doug Monieson is an active member of the financial trading community in Chicago, Illinois, and the current Chairman of the Board of Hyde Park Angels, a successful Midwest angel investment group. Doug is also the CEO and Executive Chairman of UICO, a leader in capacitive touch screens. In addition to possessing more than 25 years of financial trade experience, Doug has extensive board experience in governance, nominating and strategy at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He joined RTC’s Board of Directors in 2015.

Doug is an avid cyclist, commuting four miles between his home and office year-round. He is involved in several Chicago biking organizations, including Bike Buddies, and participates in the annual Venus de Miles Charity ride in support of Greenhouse Scholars.

M. Katherine Kraft | Photo courtesy M. Katherine Kraft

M. Katherine Kraft


M. Katherine Kraft is a nationally recognized expert on the impact of the built environment on health outcomes. As the national coalition director of the Every Body Walk! Collaborative at America Walks, Kate is working with national partners to build a robust and effective national walking movement. She serves on the RTC board with a goal of seeing a nationwide, complete and interconnected trail system that is safe, beautiful and stress free. 

Kate previously worked as a planning and program consultant for various foundations, national organizations and research groups, developing and evaluating local community change efforts and designing prevention initiatives related to physical activity and health. She also spent 10 years as a senior program and evaluation staff member for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, overseeing initiatives designed to promote healthy behavior. Kate frequently speaks and writes about the impact of the built environment on health, and why place matters.

Board Members

Balaji Bondili | Photo courtesy Balaji Bondili

Balaji Bondili

Board Member

Balaji Bondili is a managing director at Deloitte Consulting, where he builds new ventures, including Pixel, which focuses on the Future of Work. His expertise is in building businesses in non-traditional spaces, bringing his experience in venture capital, digital health, medical device innovation, healthcare and emerging markets.

Balaji’s work has been the subject of a Harvard Business School Case Study, which has been taught at some of the United States’ most esteemed business institutions, including Harvard Business School, Stanford Business School, Wharton Business School and Kellogg School of Management, and globally, at HEC and INSEAD. There, he helps teach students and senior executives the concept of “ambidextrous organizations”—the ability to build new businesses while scaling existing businesses.  

Raised in India, and currently based in Nashville with his wife and daughter, Balaji is passionate about making trails core to the urban experience using improved intra-city sidewalk connectivity. On a weekend, Balaji loves taking long bike rides and hikes with his family, or reading the latest New Yorker with a cappuccino.  

Jim Brainard | Photo courtesy Jim Brainard

Jim Brainard

Board Member

Mayor Jim Brainard is the first seven-term mayor of Carmel, Indiana, one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Recently, he spearheaded a $28 million expansion of the Monon Trail, a 2009 inductee to RTC’s Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.

Under his leadership, the population of Carmel has grown from 25,000 to 100,000 people, and the city has won numerous awards, including an honorable mention for Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities and a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community designation by the League of American Bicyclists.

Mayor Brainard was previously appointed to the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience by President Barack Obama, and currently serves as a trustee/co-chair of the Energy Independence and Climate Protection Task Force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He was named one of the “Most Powerful Hoosiers in the World” by Indianapolis Monthly.

He resides in Carmel and has four children: Jack, Will, Marie and Martha.

Mark A. Filippell | Photo courtesy Mark A. Filippell

Mark A. Filippell

Board Member

Mark Filippell hails from Cleveland, Ohio.  During Mark’s 35 years in investment banking he has closed over 130 M&A transactions. His focus is manufacturing and capital goods; two of his engagements have been recognized as “International Deal of the Year” by The M&A Advisor. Prior to co-founding Western Reserve Partners in 2004, which was acquired by Citizens Capital Markets in 2017, Mark was Manager of the M&A Department at KeyBanc Capital Markets. Mark has held leadership positions at the Ohio Broadcast Educational Media Commission, the Great Lakes Science Center, the Lake Erie Council of the Boy Scouts of America and the Cleveland Center for Economic Education.

Mark is an avid cyclist and triathlete, having completed 10 triathlons including one IRONMAN race. He speaks both Spanish and Italian and is an Eagle Scout. Mark is married to Buffy Filippell and has one son, Davis.

John Friedmann | Photo courtesy John Friedmann

John Friedmann

Board Member

John Friedmann is the recently retired vice president of network planning and optimization at Norfolk Southern Railway (NS). In this capacity, he was responsible for designing NS’ operating plan—scheduling all freight shipments through the NS network. John now serves as an independent board member of the Iowa Interstate Railroad.  

Over the course of 28 years, John served NS in a variety of roles, including as division superintendent, assistant to the chairman and vice president of strategic planning. While heading strategic planning, he oversaw the disposition of surplus rail lines, including several that were transformed into trails. John also previously ran NS’ fiber-optic subsidiary T-Cubed.  

Prior to joining NS, John served as assistant to the president at Georgia Tech and was involved in helping Atlanta win the bid for the 1996 Olympics. 

A native of the Northeast, he earned his undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University and his MBA from the University of Pennsylvania, but he has lived most of his life in the South. Avid interests include railroad history, geography, travel and bicycling with his wife, Anita.  

Vanessa Garrison | Photo courtesy Vanessa Garrison

Vanessa Garrison

Board Member

Vanessa Garrison is the co-founder of GirlTrek, the largest public health nonprofit for African-American women and girls in the United States. With more than 100,000 neighborhood walkers, GirlTrek encourages women to use walking as a practical first step to inspire healthy living, families and communities.

Prior to co-founding GirlTrek, Garrison worked within the criminal justice space, helping formerly incarcerated women access critical services. She began her career with Turner Broadcasting System in Atlanta, where she managed digital media projects for some the world’s most recognizable news and entertainment brands, including, CNNTNT and Sports Illustrated.

With GirlTrek, Vanessa is among the top 1 percent of social innovators in the world to receive fellowships from Echoing Green and The Aspen Institute. She was named a “Health Hero” by Essence Magazine, and her Ted Talk, “When Black Women Walk,” has more than 1 million views.

A native of Seattle, Washington, Vanessa earned her B.A. in World Arts and Culture from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Catherine Sloss Jones | Photo courtesy Catherine Sloss Jones

Catherine Sloss Jones

Board Member

Catherine Sloss Jones is CEO of Sloss Real Estate Company, a multidisciplinary firm in Birmingham, Alabama, founded by her grandfather in 1920. Her focus is on urban redevelopment/revitalization and the renewal of the community by renovating historic buildings, constructing new buildings that honor their surroundings and by providing planning services throughout the region. Significant projects include Pepper Place, a designated entertainment district, and Park Place, Birmingham’s first HOPE VI neighborhood.

A recognized civic leader, Jones serves on many boards and chairs the Alabama Chapter of the Urban Land Institute. As a Loeb Fellow, she honed her expertise in sound design principles and green building, studying innovative models for mixed-income/mixed-use healthy communities. She has received numerous awards, including Birmingham Businesswoman of the Year. In 2017 she was named to the Alabama Academy of Honor, Alabama’s highest award.

Noel Kegel | Photo courtesy Noel Kegel

Noel Kegel

Board Member

Noel is president of Wheel & Sprocket, a nationally recognized bicycle retailer serving communities in Wisconsin and Illinois. Creating more safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure has been at the core of the company’s DNA for over 30 years. In high school, his first job at Wheel & Sprocket was to provide mobile mechanical assistance to dozens of organized rides each summer; it was through those experiences across the backroads of the Midwest that Noel learned the real joy that riding brings to us all. Noel firmly believes that bikes make the world a better place, so in turn, part of his responsibility is to work to make the world a better place for bikes.

Noel is an avid bike traveler rolling over roads and ruts, over mountains and through valleys in more than 30 countries, but one of his favorite routes remains the Elroy-Sparta State Trail in western Wisconsin—one of the first rail-trail projects in the country.

Gail Lipstein | Photo courtesy Gail Lipstein

Gail Lipstein

Board Member

Gail Lipstein spent her career in physical therapy and pediatric rehabilitation services at a Philadelphia children’s hospital before retiring to raise a family. Active in community service, she became interested in local trail development and advocacy while serving on the board of a local community foundation, and currently serves on the board of the Friends of the Chester Valley Trail in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Along with her husband Sandy, Gail has supported the mission and work of RTC since 1992. 

As a bicycling and outdoor enthusiast and supporter of healthy lifestyles, Gail believes in the creation of trails and other safe and convenient places for families to engage in recreational activities. Gail has always been impressed with RTC as the early and strong leader in the trail-building movement.

Elizabeth Lynn

Elizabeth Lynn

Board Member

Elizabeth Lynn is the executive director of the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, a family philanthropy dedicated to improving quality of life and quality of place in Newport County, Rhode Island. Elizabeth’s career includes more than 30 years of experience in philanthropy, during which she’s effectively managed grant portfolios recognized as being catalytic in supporting positive and lasting community change.

Prior to joining the van Beuren team in 2008, Elizabeth served for 13+ years as assistant director of the McCune Foundation, supporting nonprofits committed to fostering community vitality and economic growth in Southwest Pennsylvania. Before entering the philanthropy world, she worked in technology transfer and commercialization, diversifying and strengthening local economies with defense industry presence, and improving access to credit for low-income communities.

Elizabeth has a B.A. in International Relations from Bucknell University and an M.A. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. She grew up in rural Southwest Pennsylvania, where her regular trips on the iconic Great Allegheny Passage ( demonstrated firsthand the transformative impact of trails on communities and regions. She lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, with her husband Dick. 

Ayesha McGowan | Photo courtesy Liv Cycling

Ayesha McGowan

Board Member

Ayesha McGowan is the first African American woman in the professional world of road cycling, a dedicated influencer and role model for Black women and girls—and an advocate for anyone underrepresented in bicycling and the outdoors. While attending college in Boston, she started commuting on a hand-me-down Schwinn bike that belonged to her mother. Seven years of bike adventures later, she made her way into competitive road cycling. After taking home a state championship in one of her first road races, bike racing became more than a hobby, and in 2015, she decided to pursue her goal of becoming a professional athlete.

McGowan has become a persistent advocate for diversifying the bicycling world—employing her broad social media presence to educate audiences about cycling and provide insights into life as an endurance athlete. She has also attracted several brand partnerships—most notably with Liv Cycling—where after racing as a privateer for two seasons, she recently signed on to become a trainee with the Liv Racing World Team.

McGowan is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, with a Bachelor of Arts in Professional Music. She resides in Decatur, Georgia.

Tom Petri | Photo courtesy Tom Petri

Tom Petri

Board Member

Tom Petri is a former U.S. Congressman who represented Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District for 18 terms until his retirement in January 2015 (at the end of the 113th Congress). During his time in office, he served as a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Committee on Education and the Workforce, as well as chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee and chairman of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee (113th).

Known for his innovative and creative solutions to government problems, Rep. Petri pursued legislative initiatives in several areas, including student loan reform, the federal highway program, cost sharing for federal water projects, tax and welfare reform, and health-care reform. He also sponsored bipartisan legislation, the Making Work and Marriage Pay Act, which would establish a commission to examine and report to Congress on the disincentives for low-income couples to work and marry. Tom is married to Anne Neal Petri and has one daughter, Alexandra.

Marvin Plakut | Photo courtesy Marvin Plakut

Marvin Plakut

Board Member

Marvin Plakut has been in the long-term care industry since 1985, having served in a variety of management positions for both profit and nonprofit organizations. For the past 24 years, Marvin has served in his current role as President & CEO of Episcopal Homes of Minnesota. Under his leadership, Episcopal Homes has tripled in size and substantially increased its presence on University Avenue in St. Paul. Episcopal Homes’ most recent project was a $60 million expansion on its main campus at the Fairview light rail station.

Numerous local and national awards have been received by Episcopal Homes in the last dozen years, with the most recent coming from the National Association of Local Housing Finance Agencies for high-quality affordable housing on University Avenue in St. Paul.

Marvin has served on several industry boards and is frequently asked by leaders in long-term care to speak on Episcopal Homes’ growth and strategies in the urban core of St. Paul.

Marvin was born and raised in central Minnesota and returned to the Twin Cities after serving in the Air Force and completing his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Los Angeles. He and his wife of 40 years live in Woodbury and enjoy visiting their three adult children—two in Minnesota and one in Australia. Marvin enjoys international travel with family and year-round cycling.

Juliette Rizzo | Photo courtesy RTC

Juliette Rizzo

Board Member

A widely recognized and visible champion, national spokesperson and enthusiastic advocate for disability rights, Juliette Rizzo knows firsthand the power of transforming limitations into opportunity. She is deeply committed to educating the public and bringing mainstream visibility to issues that impact the disability community, including the accessibility of active transportation infrastructure like sidewalks and trails. 

Rizzo is a tireless and effective advocate for removing barriers that prevent the more than 64 million Americans with disabilities from living full and productive lives. She leverages her lived experience and talent as a storyteller and public relations professional to build recognition and support for safe streets and accessible communities nationwide.

Rizzo is a sought-after public speaker, using her national platform to draw attention to the opportunity that communities have to create inclusive, universally accessible mobility by designing safe streets and transportation routes that meet the broad-ranging needs of diverse populations. She has served three governor-appointed terms on the Maryland Commission on Disabilities, and is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including being named one of Maryland’s Top 100 Women and serving as Ms. Wheelchair America. Her work and her advocacy for inclusive health and wellness have been featured by Discovery Health, making her one of the first people with multiple, severe disabilities to appear on its mainstream health and fitness network, as well as in national media outlets, including Woman’s World MagazineLife MagazineTime MagazineThe Today Show, the CBS Early Show, and National Public Radio among others.

Rizzo currently serves as the director of special projects, partnerships and events at the U.S. Department of Education. She holds a Master of Journalism from the University of North Texas and a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University.

Daniel A. Rodríguez, Ph.D. | Photo courtesy Daniel A. Rodríguez

Daniel A. Rodríguez, Ph.D.

Board Member

Daniel A. Rodríguez is a chancellor’s professor of city and regional planning and the interim director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Rodríguez’s research is focused on the relationship between transportation, land development, and health and environmental consequences, with a goal to find solutions to practical problems for planners and policymakers. 

Prior to joining Berkeley, Rodríguez served in the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he was a distinguished professor of sustainable communities in the Department of City and Regional Planning. He is a faculty fellow of the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy and has served as a consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank, the Andean Development Bank and the Clean Air Institute. 

Rodríguez has won multiple awards, including the Excellence in Safety Research Poster Award, given by Active Living and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Transportation Research Board’s Fred Burggraf Award for excellence. 

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Fordham University, a Master of Science in Transportation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Urban, Technological and Environmental Planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 

James Sallis, Ph.D. | Photo courtesy James Sallis

James F. Sallis, Ph.D.

Board Member

Dr. James F. Sallis is a distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, as well as a professorial fellow at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne. A pioneer in developing the interdisciplinary study of the built environment and physical activity, his current research focus includes the informing of policy and environmental changes to increase physical activity and reduce obesity and chronic diseases worldwide. He is also a co-founder of IPEN (International Physical activity and Environmental Network), which is coordinating international studies in more than 20 countries.

Sallis is one of the world’s most cited authors in the social sciences, having authored more than 600 publications. He is an elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine—serving on their Roundtable on Obesity Solutions—and is past president of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. In 2011, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition.

Ryan Chao | Photo by Anthony Le

Ryan Chao

President, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Non-Voting Board Member

Ryan Chao became president of RTC in January 2019, overseeing the organization’s national leadership in trail development, policy advocacy and movement building. He brings to his role a long history in community and economic development and a passion for connecting people to opportunity and the outdoors.

Ryan came to RTC after serving as vice president of civic sites and community change at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he led significant neighborhood-transformation initiatives across the country, linking economic, educational and housing programs to strengthen families and communities. He also served as executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area-based Satellite Housing, where he led the development of affordable housing communities throughout Northern California and created innovative partnership models combining housing with comprehensive supportive services.

Ryan earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Business Administration from the New York University Stern School of Business.

When he’s not leading the team at RTC, Ryan enjoys skiing and cycling on the trails with his wife and daughters.