President/CEO, Operation Lifesaver
From the age of 12, Joyce Rose planned to teach music, which she did for a couple of years after she graduated college. She hadn’t foreseen a passion for legislation eventually leading her to down a different path to Capitol Hill.
This significant change in course began when her husband’s new job moved them too far away for her to continue her teaching position in Maryland. Utilizing her typing skills, she took a job as an administrative assistant at the National Forest Products Association (now the American Paper Institute), a trade association in Washington, D.C.
A few years later, Rose began her work in public transportation. One of her former bosses who started working for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee asked Rose to join her.
“She was convinced I would enjoy the challenges and atmosphere,” Rose recalls.
Even though Rose had two small children and was happy with what she was doing, she applied and was hired as a staff assistant with the Senate Appropriations Committee, Transportation Subcommittee, which provides funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Her boss was right. “I loved it,” Rose says. “It was so exciting to learn about how federal funds were put to work. I never thought about how the federal government makes such an immediate difference in our lives.”
Rose soon took on more responsibility and worked her way up over 13 years from administrative assistant to staff director for the Subcommittee on Railroads.
After doing appropriations work, Rose decided to find out how programs were authorized. She took a job working for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in 2001.
During that time, Rose wrote the transit title for the 2005 authorization for Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).
With that bill, Rose says, the government started providing the necessary funds to keep public transportation on firm footing.
In 2012, as Staff Director for the Railroad Subcommittee, Rose wrote the transit title for MAP-21.
“For the first time, we created a federal safety oversight role for transit,” Rose says. “I’m very pleased with that effort.”
Later that year, Rose was hired on as president and CEO at national nonprofit rail safety education program Operation Lifesaver Inc. (OL). She had been a fan of the program since early in her career. As it turned out, the OL board of directors was looking for someone who could help raise the organization’s profile in Washington, D.C., and the public. Rose’s long history on Capitol Hill, in which she developed relationships in the transportation and safety communities, helped make that happen.
Rose also knows the laws, since she wrote many of them, as well as federal policy for rail and transit programs. This depth of knowledge has helped her educate OL volunteers, the public and enforcement community.
With programs in every state and almost 1,500 volunteers nationwide, OL conducts rail safety education presentations to almost 3 million people every year.
Rose finds it rewarding to help OL’s dedicated volunteers — including railroad retirees, police officers, truck drivers and concerned citizens — educate people about safety around rail crossings and rights of way.
With communication becoming much more Internet-based, OL is overhauling its education delivery system by making all of its training and educational materials available online, which has been a challenge, Rose says. It is expanding its network of volunteers by reaching out more on social media to younger people and students.
“This is going to make our organization more effective because we’re reaching more people,” she explains.
Outside the office, Rose directs her church choir and loves to travel.