June 24, 2014

Industry mourns passing of COMTO president/CEO, Cunningham

Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) President/CEO Julie Cunningham passed away today.

"We are all totally devastated and no words can adequately express our sorrow. Julie was a brilliant leader, who over the past decade moved COMTO from good to great. We thank her; we will miss her, as we continue to honor her," said Robert H. Prince, Jr., COMTO National Chair in a statement.

Since her 2001 appointment as head of COMTO, she effectively led the national trade association in unprecedented growth — moving from a single focus of public transit to a focus of multi-modalism, now including aviation, port authorities and state departments of transportation.

Cunningham served on President-Elect Barack Obama’s Transition Team at the U.S. Department of Transportation and provided expert testimony before the U.S. Congress, including the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Senate Democratic Caucus. 

Statement by APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy:

“We mourn the loss of a member of the APTA family. Julie Cunningham, president and CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO), passed away today.

Julie singlehandedly increased the stature and influence of COMTO. Her strong will and passion heightened the profile and voice of minority professionals throughout the transportation industry.

Julie often said her mission is for people of color to have a seat at the table. Her legacy is the many individuals who have served, and are still serving, in influential roles in transportation, and the many young people she has mentored who will have seats at the table.

Julie has long been affiliated with APTA. Before being named to lead COMTO in 2001, she was a Transit Board Member for the Laketran transit system in Ohio, and was a regional representative on APTA’s Transit Board Members Committee’s Executive Council.

Julie worked very closely with APTA on many fronts. She was instrumental in developing a formal and expanded partnership and collaboration between APTA and COMTO in such areas as strategic planning, policy forums, and workforce development. She also served on APTA’s Diversity Council.

Julie was a catalyst for APTA and COMTO working together to promote and support historically underutilized businesses. She helped launch a series of APTA-COMTO Assembly program sessions initiated at both organizations’ conferences, focusing on best practices and ways to enhance the sustainability of Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.
APTA also worked very closely with COMTO to find ways to more broadly disseminate the Transit Cooperative Research Program reports, and Julie spearheaded its very successful Ambassador program.

On a more personal note, Julie was a mentor to me when I became APTA president/CEO in 2011. She helped me navigate my transition to the association world. She was an excellent sounding board, and I will miss her direct and honest advice.

The APTA family offers its sympathies to Julie’s daughter and her family, and to the many members of COMTO. We celebrate Julie’s life and give thanks for her many accomplishments.”

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