Sarah Rudolf, Associate Director, Rail~Volution
We’re excited to welcome to Rail~Volution our new Associate Director, Sarah Rudolf. Her first days as a new staff member were spent at the 2018 Rail~Volution conference in Pittsburgh, a great introduction to our work and the network, including our board and National Steering Committee. As Associate Director, Sarah will be working closely with CEO Dan Bartholomay on the ACT2 regional capacity building program and in managing the organization. Sarah comes to Rail~Volution from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, where she worked as Small Business Contracting Supervisor, Statewide Public Engagement Coordinator and as the Race Equity Program Lead for the State of Minnesota. She also has worked with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Communicate Health in Northampton, MA., and the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative in Baltimore, MD.
See below six questions Sarah answered by way of introducing herself to the Rail~Volution network. Welcome, Sarah!
You started working at Rail~Volution right before the US Thanksgiving holiday. How did you describe your new job to relatives and friends?
Well, I’d start by sharing that Rail~Volution convenes people to build capacity for more integrated decision-making around transit investments. More often than not, I’d have to unpack that with them. Then I described how we’re working to build our reach beyond the conference, and how my role is to develop our new ACT2 (Accelerate Community Transit and Transformation) program, working closely with a few sites for 18-24 months. I think of it like a vitamin boost – it’s about harnessing the good work already happening somewhere and taking it to the next level by bringing national experts, proven strategies and focused attention on their efforts.
Which of your previous roles or positions do you think you’ll be drawing on most in your work with Rail~Volution’s ACT2 regional capacity-building program?
I’m excited about how this job combines many important aspects of my previous roles: stakeholder engagement, collective problem solving, facilitation, team building, racial equity and public policy. It’s really about bringing all of these pieces together to strengthen and build communities – not just connecting the built environment but also connecting people and decisions.
What do you like to do? When does work feel best, most satisfying?
One of the things I’m best at is bringing together people in a room around a common issue and working with them to figure out a way to move forward. It’s centered not only on strengths but also on making sure that different voices are in the conversation and recognized for their unique contributions and relevance – problem solving and community building at the same time. Some just call this good planning, but it requires galvanizing perspectives to advance a common goal, and that doesn’t just happen automatically. It’s achieved by being intentional and inclusive, which are words that people use a lot, but at Rail~Volution we constantly seek ways to really live them as we do our work.
As you get to know Rail~Volution – at this point just several weeks in – what elements or aspects of the organization stand out to you?
As an organization, we’re pretty lean and mean – a lot gets done with only five staff members. But what makes this possible is the people behind our mission –our amazing board, our national steering committee and our network of organizers, engineers, planners, and government officials who do this every day. It’s like a mini think tank – everyone brings so much knowledge and experience and there’s such a willingness to share and learn from one another.
What ways do you like to get around? What is your ideal commute?
My family lives in a great neighborhood in St. Paul where my kids walk or bike to most places – school, doctor’s office, haircuts, swim lessons, Little League, and their favorite restaurants and toy stores. I have aspirations of becoming a winter bike commuter in Minnesota but this year I might be driving until next spring.
What are (up to 5) places you’ve lived before? Are there “livable community” moments or places that stand out?
I went to grad school in Baltimore and also lived for a couple of years in both Chicago and Washington, DC. When I think about places that stand out, DuPont Circle comes to mind. Although it’s cliché, it’s also one of the closest things we have in America to a public square – a central meeting point where there’s something for everyone. I walked through it every day on my way to work when I lived there, but I have a lot of other memories there: burrito lunches with co-workers, late-night visits with a friend from out of town, watching the park guys play chess games, flash mob concerts, farmer’s markets, hanging out after my friend’s wedding reception across the street, my two-year-old playing with a bouncy ball and dipping his toes into the fountain. There’s so much activity packed into that space and it truly is a hub.