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Transportation policy is a web of interlocking pieces from mass transit to highways to rail to air. This year, as Hill leaders approach a massive $500 billion transportation reauthorization package, they are hoping to take a more holistic approach to the subject. Still, its not clear when they will get there. The Senate wants to punt on reauthorization for 18 months; the House is ready to move ahead. The only real certainty is that the Highway Trust Fund is set to run out of money next month. Here are 10 staffers who will play important roles in crafting the countrys future transportation network.
Jim Coon, chief of staff, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, minority
Birthplace: Vallejo, Calif.
Education: B.A., Virginia Tech
Jim Coon joined the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as majority staff director of the Subcommittee on Aviation in 2004, after working as a lobbyist for the Air Transport Association and Boeing.
Before joining the ATA, where he worked for five years, he spent more than a decade on the Hill, including time as legislative director for Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) and as a staffer on the Aviation Subcommittee.
Coon became minority staff director of the full T&I committee in 2007 under Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), where he manages 30 people and is responsible for developing the Republicans overall strategy and position on legislative matters.
Coons main focus this year has been on the reauthorization of the highway bill. And he says his downtown background has helped him in dealing with lobbyists.
I certainly take their advice and expertise into consideration in developing overall strategy in how we are approaching things, Coon said.
Coons measured approach is appreciated by K Streeters, who say his even-keeled nature is a bonus when dealing with the panel.
Kathy Dedrick, senior policy director for transportation, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Birthplace: Newberg, Ore.
Education: B.A., Willamette University
The new bill will be transformational, Dedrick said. We need to re-evaluate how things are working to come up with a new system.
The biggest challenge for Dedrick is handling all of the transportation issues at once as Congress considers climate change and energy bills this year.
Theres a lot going on, she said. But in transportation you really work together to build coalitions and see the fruits of your labor. Dedrick said she is always willing to listen and work with lobbyists and outside interests. Its especially helpful when they present clear, focused ideas, she said.
Lobbyists said Dedrick does it all and will be crucial to moving a bill this year.
Dedricks major accomplishment is working to increase the amount of funding for transportation in the stimulus package passed earlier this year.
Before joining the EPW panel, Dedrick spent six years on the House side in the personal office and on the Transportation subcommittee of Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), which included work on the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. She moved across the Capitol a couple of years ago.
She started her career in Washington, D.C., with Vice President Al Gore, first in his correspondence office before moving into legislative affairs.