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Meet Mara Stark-Alcala!

Mara Stark-Alcalá
Legislative Representative
Government Affairs Department

What are the job elements you focus on the most—your primary responsibilities?

As part of the Government Affairs Department, I advocate for APTA’s legislative and policy ­priorities in Congress and the administration. To make sure I am effectively serving our members, I meet with congressional staff, track legislation, attend committee hearings and support our members when they’re testifying on the Hill, draft letters from APTA to Congress or the administration, and help advise APTA Legislative Subcommittees and ­regulatory reform working groups.

Since I joined APTA, one of our legislative focuses has been the ­Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program, which funds New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity projects. I have enjoyed using my background in appropriations to try to hold Congress to the promises it made in the FAST Act. We have pushed for full funding and language to ensure the CIG program continues to operate smoothly under the new administration.

I also look forward to working with my Government Affairs colleagues and APTA members to develop policy priorities and positions for the next authorization bill that will succeed the FAST Act when it expires in 2020.

What connections do you have with APTA members?

It has been exciting to work more closely with our members over the last couple of months to push regulatory reform proposals forward. I enjoy hearing from them about their experiences and the ways in which regulations impact them. It is very rewarding then to work with them and foster conver­sations that lead to consensus proposals. In particular, it was a pleasure working on the Buy ­America proposal.

I recently became a staff advisor for two Legislative Committee subcommittees, Federal Procedures and Regulations and Funding, Finance and Tax Policy. And at APTA’s 2017 Annual Meeting and EXPO, I assumed the staff advisor role for the Intergovern­mental Issues Legislative Subcommittee.

In preparing for the Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to work with our subcommittee chairs to write their agendas. My APTA colleagues have been very supportive and helpful as I’ve assumed more staff advisor responsibilities.

What initiatives, projects or programs have you worked on at APTA that you have taken particular pride in completing?

While I can’t quite claim completion or victory yet, I’ve really enjoyed working to protect the CIG program through the appropriations process, as well as the regulatory reform proposals. I was really proud to see that all our hard work and advocacy this spring resulted in both the House and Senate including strong language to protect and continue the CIG program.

We will still push for more funding in the final bill, but the language is a positive indication that Congress understands the importance of the program as well as the federal role in public transportation.

I am also proud that APTA submitted a package of regulatory reform proposals to the federal docket earlier this year and we have another ready for board approval at Annual, including a proposal that came out of a Buy America working group I helped advise.

How did you “land” at APTA? How long have you worked here and have you held other jobs in the public transportation field?

I joined APTA in February of this year after working for five years in the Senate, most recently as press secretary of the Senate Appropriations Committee under former Chair and Vice Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). I also worked on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for former Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). Both senators retired this year, but each gave me the opportunity to work on transportation issues and foster a passion for advocating for the ­country’s infrastructure needs.

Could you tell us something about yourself that might surprise us?

This isn’t about me, but about the two senators I worked for. Both former Sens. Mikulski and Boxer have written multiple political mystery novels. I have read at least one by each of them.
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